5 reasons why dogs are great for your wellbeing

Fun fact: did you know that dog cells have up to 70% more mitochondria per cell than human cells do? This makes them incredible endurance athletes - and great exercise buddies! At MitoQ, we love dogs (we frequently enjoy “bring your dog to work days!”). They’re not only cute and inspiring fitness buddies – they can also have a really positive influence on our mental health.

Dog on beach with rainbow

Dogs do require a significant amount of love, attention and care – but if you’re up for the challenge and are thinking about adding a furry, four-legged friend to your family, here are five reasons why adopting a dog could be mutually beneficial.

1. Dogs can help to reduce stress in demanding work environments

Nursing is considered one of the most stressful careers out there - it’s a job that is mentally, emotionally and physically demanding. It turns out, working in the company of dogs helps to reduce some of this stress. In one study, 20 female nurses were monitored during their work hours to evaluate how the presence of therapy dogs affects stress levels. The study found that working in the presence of dogs reduced cortisol levels (cortisol is a hormone related to the body’s stress response). As a result, the study's author proposes that therapy dogs be included in healthcare facilities where nurses are at a high risk of stress.

2. Therapy dogs can influence a positive shift in mood and anxiety

Studies have also found that the presence of dogs can help to reduce anxiety and improve mood. In one study, 132 university students were split into groups that either 1) interacted with dogs and their handlers, 2) interacted with just the dogs or 3) interacted with just the handlers, without the presence of a dog. There was a clear contrast in the results. In groups where a dog was present, students experienced significant improvements in mood and wellbeing, and experienced a decrease in anxiety. These improvements were greater in groups where a dog was present without a handler. Based on this study, just 20 minutes a day with a therapy dog can effectively improve wellbeing, mood and anxiety.

3. Dog ownership may reduce loneliness

Particularly now, when many of us are separated from our loved ones around the world, we need to find ways to reduce feelings of loneliness. According to one study, adding a four-legged family member could be a way to help with this. The eight-month study compared the loneliness scales of 71 participants, of whom 17 acquired dogs in the first month of the study. Those who acquired a dog in the first month of the study experienced a noticeable reduction in loneliness within three months of dog ownership. So, if you live alone or work from home, a furry companion could be just what you need.

4. Service dogs can positively contribute to self-esteem

Another aspect of wellbeing that dogs can contribute to is self-esteem, according to a study involving 48 individuals who all require the use of a wheelchair. The individuals were paired up and then matched with service dogs at different times within the study’s 2-year period. After being matched with a service dog, all participants reported a significant improvement in self-esteem, psychological wellbeing, community integration and dedication to work/school commitments.

5. Therapy dogs can contribute to general wellbeing and socialization

A fifth study, which involved the participation of elderly schizophrenic patients over a one-year period, found that being in the company of dogs (and cats) can support socialization. Over the course of the year, the patients were assigned cats and dogs as “modeling companions” - and noticed multiple wellbeing improvements as a result, with socialization enhancement being one of the major outcomes.

The bottom line

If you’ve got the time and ability to adopt and care for a dog, you could be signing both yourself and your canine friend up for a quality life update. If you’re hoping to improve your self-esteem, better cope with stress and anxiety, want more company or an enthusiastic workout buddy – these studies suggest that spending some time with a dog could provide all that and more.

Find out more

If you’d like to learn more about how amazing dogs are and how their mitochondria contribute to them being fantastic endurance athletes, be sure to check out: More Mitochondria for Better Athletes?

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