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How can dog ownership benefit human health?

Associate Professor Manos Stamatakis of the Charles Perkins Centre and the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Brendon Neilly, RSPCA NSW Executive Manager of Animal Care Services.

Professor Stamatakis, says "We know that with older age comes increasing isolation, and with that comes loneliness. It's a major cardiovascular risk factor, it's a major cancer risk factor and it's a major risk factor for depression."

"One aspect of human isolation can be addressed by simply owning a dog, because of the companionship and unconditional acceptance and love and other things that humans do not often get from other humans. The second aspect is that the dog can be a catalyst to tighten human social connections and increase connections."

Neilly agrees: "There are enormous benefits for animals and people in terms of social connections. If you are walking down the street and a person says 'hello' it can be a bit weird, but if someone stops to pat your dog it is an instant social connection."

With scientifically backed data on these benefits, a path could be cleared for dog ownership as part of the human healthcare systems.

"We could say to people like public transport providers, rental accommodation owners, local governments, nursing homes and community groups that it's not just anecdotal and it's not just about letting people keep pets," says Neilly.

"If we can demonstrate a physiological measure, a genuine value, we can make real improvement to quality of life. And that's for both pets and owners."

- Sydney Alumni Magazine

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