University of Sydney professor Manos Stamatakis has linked the benefits of dog ownership to positive impacts on human health.

Research being undertaken at the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences considers aspects of ownership and its effects on physical activity, disease prevention, behavioural changes and interaction between humans and canines.

“We know that dogs can be not only a catalyst for physical activity, which is a major health issue in our society, but dog ownership can also address social isolation; the lack of connection between humans,” said Professor Stamatakis.

“What we want to understand is why these benefits occur. Is it because of the ownership itself, or because there is another mechanism that mediates this, like walking or companionship?”

Approximately 39 per cent of Australian households own a dog, which, according to Stamatakis, have encouraging physical and psychological outcomes on humans, especially amongst the elderly.

“We know that with older age comes increasing isolation, and with that comes loneliness. It’s a major cardiovascular disease risk factor, it’s a major cancer risk factor, and it’s a major risk factor for depression,” he said.

“One aspect of human isolation can be addressed simply by owning a dog, because of their companionship, unconditional acceptance and love that humans often do not get from other people.”