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      Living with Companion Animals, Physical Activity and Mortality in a U.S. National Cohort

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          Living with a canine companion is postulated to increase physical activity. We test the hypotheses that adults living with a canine companion have a higher level of physical activity and reduced mortality risk compared to those not living with a companion animal. A U.S. national health survey with longitudinal mortality follow-up studied 11,394 American men and women aged 40 years and over examined in 1988–1994 followed an average 8.5 years. Measurements at baseline included self-reported companion animals in the household, socio-demographics, health status, physical and biochemical measurements. Outcome measures were leisure-time physical activity (LTPA), and death from all causes. Death during follow-up occurred in 3,187 persons. In bivariate cross-sectional analyses living with a dog was associated with more frequent LTPA and higher survival. In proportional hazards regression analysis, no significant interaction of age, gender or ethnicity with animals was found. After adjusting for confounding by baseline socio-demographics and health status at ages 40+, the hazards ratio (95% confidence limits) for living with a canine companion compared to no animals was 1.21(1.04–1.41, p < 0.001). After also controlling for health behaviors, blood pressure and body mass, C-reactive protein and HDL-cholesterol, the HR was 1.19 (0.97–1.47, NS). In a nationwide cohort of American adults, analyses demonstrated no lower risk of death independent of confounders among those living with canine or feline companions, despite positive association of canine companions with LTPA.

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          Most cited references 11

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          The pet connection: pets as a conduit for social capital?

          There is growing interest across a range of disciplines in the relationship between pets and health, with a range of therapeutic, physiological, psychological and psychosocial benefits now documented. While much of the literature has focused on the individual benefits of pet ownership, this study considered the potential health benefits that might accrue to the broader community, as encapsulated in the construct of social capital. A random survey of 339 adult residents from Perth, Western Australia were selected from three suburbs and interviewed by telephone. Pet ownership was found to be positively associated with some forms of social contact and interaction, and with perceptions of neighbourhood friendliness. After adjustment for demographic variables, pet owners scored higher on social capital and civic engagement scales. The results suggest that pet ownership provides potential opportunities for interactions between neighbours and that further research in this area is warranted. Social capital is another potential mechanism by which pets exert an influence on human health.
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            Dog ownership, health and physical activity: a critical review of the literature.

            This review examines the association between dog ownership and adult physical activity levels. While there is evidence to suggest that dog ownership produces considerable health benefit and provides an important form of social support that encourages dog owners to walk, there is limited evidence on the physical environmental and policy-related factors that affect dog owners walking with their dog. With the high level of dog ownership in many industrialized countries, further exploration of the relationship between dog ownership and physical activity levels may be important for preventing declining levels of physical activity and the associated detrimental health effects.
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              Plan and operation of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-94. Series 1: programs and collection procedures.

              This report describes the plan and operation of the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The sample for this study of the U.S. population was selected from households in 81 counties across the United States. About 40,000 persons 2 months of age and over were selected, including large samples of both young and old persons. About 12,000 of the sample persons were black Americans, 12,000 were Mexican-Americans, and the remaining 16,000 were of all other race and ethnicity groups. All selected persons were asked to complete an extensive interview and an examination in a large mobile examination center. The survey period is 1988-94, consisting of two phases of equal length and sample size. Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 were random samples of the U.S. population living in households.

                Author and article information

                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI)
                June 2010
                28 May 2010
                : 7
                : 6
                : 2452-2459
                Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, Howard University, 2041 Georgia Avenue, Washington, DC, 20060, USA; E-Mail: tobisesan@ 123456howard.edu
                Author notes
                [* ]Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: rfg2.howard.edu@ 123456gmail.com ; Tel.: +1-301-628-3435; Fax: +1-301-608-2384.
                © 2007 by the authors; licensee Molecular Diversity Preservation International, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).


                Public health

                physical activity, mortality, domestic animals, survival


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