Dogs drastically lowers risk of premature death, especially in people living alone

Stock image via Pixabay

A study in Sweden found that owning a dog is linked to a lower risk of dying earlier.

Among canine owners, those who had terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than owners of other dog breeds But the statistical tie might have more to do with the lifestyles that those kinds of dog owners have, where they live-out in the country, rather than the city, say-and other factors, rather than anything specific to the actual breed of the dog.

The biggest beneficiaries are single people.

"The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 per cent reduction in risk of death and 11 per cent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease during follow-up compared to single non-owners".

People who live alone seemed to benefit the most from man's best friend.

The study, which is the largest to date on the health implications of owning a dog, suggested that some of the reasons dog owners may have a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease were because dog owners walk more.

An interesting finding, though purely correlative, was that dogs belonging to breeds originally selected for hunting offered the most protection, the authors reported in Scientific Reports.

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The study looked at over 3.4 million Swedish individuals between the ages of 40 and 80 sampled from a national database and the Swedish Twin Register over a 12-year study period.

Having a dog can bring a lot of love into your life. Their chances of cardiovascular death fell by 15 percent.

"We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results", said Fall. Who's a good dog?

"Dog owners in particular tend to be a little more extroverted, or outgoing" Kay Joubert, Director Companion Animal Services at PAWS, told The Huffington Post.

They also said owning a dog may protect people from cardiovascular disease by increasing their social contact or wellbeing, or by changing the owner's bacterial microbiome.

The researchers believe that the single dog owners benefit from both walking and interacting with their pet. "Thanks to the population-based design, our results are generalizable to the Swedish population, and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership", Fall concluded in the statement. (Might not get that one past the institutional review board.) But in the meantime, we'll take this association as further proof that dogs are the best and that's the end of the story.

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