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Want a friend?
A newsletter inspired by the fact that my family got a dog. Also, 7 things worth knowing today.
If you want a friend, someone once said, get a dog.
It turns out that scientifically speaking, that advice is both 100 percent correct, and perhaps even more beneficial than our sage, quotable, canine advocate might have known.
Let us count the ways our pets improve our health and wellness.
1. Slower cognitive decline
A study out of the University of Michigan earlier this year found that people who own dogs (or cats, but most of the rest of this is about dogs) wind up having slower cognitive decline in old age than their peers who don't own pets.
"Prior studies have suggested that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like decreasing blood pressure and stress," said study author Tiffany Braley, a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline."
2. Increased brain activity
A study published last month in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE says simply petting a real, live dog stimulates brain activity, compared to the experience of petting a stuffed animal that mimics a real dog.
"We chose to investigate the frontal cortex because this brain area is involved in several executive functions, such as attention, working memory, and problem-solving. But it is also involved in social and emotional processes," the study's lead author, doctoral student Rahel Marti, told CNN.
3. Better team building
A study from 2017 found that in work settings, the mere presence of a dog led people to act more cooperatively.
"Behavior in dog-present groups was rated as more cooperative, comfortable, friendly, active, enthusiastic, and attentive," wrote the study's authors, whose work is based at the department of psychology at Central Michigan University.
4. Stress reduction
Another study, published in PLOS ONE earlier this year, found that dogs can tell whether people are stressed based on their odors, while other studies have shown that new pet owners wind up with a reduction in the number of minor health issues they have, and undertake significantly more exercise than those who don't own pets.
"The results provide evidence that pet acquisition may have positive effects on human health and behavior, and that in some cases these effects are relatively long term," wrote James Serpell, of the department of clinical veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge in England.
5. Better overall health
Finally, a German and Austrian longitudinal study of 10,969 people determined that people who own pets are "the healthiest group," and "people who cease to have a pet or never had one are less healthy."
Perhaps most intriguingly, the study suggests that "pet owners make about 15 percent fewer annual doctor visits than non-owners," and that there's an element of causation here; in other words it's not simply that otherwise healthy people are more likely to get a dog or a cat, but instead that those who have pets become more healthy.
As you might imagine, today’s newsletter and my newfound interest in the subject has to do with the fact that my family just got a puppy. (We’re told she was a micro- or mini-bernedoodle; that’s her photo above.)
I admit that I was the last person in the family to get on board with the idea, but here we are two months into our canine adventure, and I have the zeal of a convert. In fact, she’s sitting next to me on the couch in our living room as I write this …
(Wait, strike that. Literally as I wrote that she needed to go outside. But I’m back.)
Anyway, I’ll let you know if I actually see any of the promised health benefits. But for now, she at least makes for some pretty good photos—and a good little friend for all of us.
7 other things worth knowing today
The shift to remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic gave Americans 60 million hours of their time back. And recent research indicates that those workers who no longer spend hours commuting to and from the office are using that reclaimed time to focus on their wellbeing. (CNBC)
New electric vehicle models from multiple automakers are starting to chip away at Tesla’s dominance of the U.S. EV market, according to national vehicle registration data: 80% in 2018-2020, 71% last year, and 65% this year. (Fortune)
A private, 28-acre Scottish island with a lighthouse and 5-bedroom home is on sale for less than the average house in America: asking price is the equivalent of $426,267. Caveat: it's only accessible by boat or helicopter. (Insider)
New England’s power grid operator is warning it may ask homes and businesses to curtail electricity use during bouts of extreme cold this winter. The grid operator said it does not expect to have to resort to rolling blackouts. (Bloomberg)
Valencia, Spain, is the No. 1 city for expats to live and work abroad in 2022, according to a survey of more than 12,000 respondents from InterNations, an online expat community with more than 4.5 million global members. (CNBC)
Two deaths to report: Kirstie Alley, best known for roles in the "Look Who's Talking" films and playing Rebecca Howe on the hit NBC sitcom "Cheers," has died from cancer. She was 71. And, Bob McGrath, an actor, musician and children's author widely known for his portrayal of one of the first regular characters on the children's show Sesame Street, has died at the age of 90. (USA Today, CBC)
Let’s wrap today with a pair of short, adorable dog videos from Twitter. See? It’s not all bad…
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: My lovely wife. I wrote about some of this before at Inc.com. See you in the comments.