Dogs Can Help Us Live Longer, New Study Finds

Alan Olson
November 18, 2017

Now, the results of this study don't mean that there's a causal relationship between owning a dog and living longer.

Though dog owners overall saw these benefits, the effects were strongest among people who lived alone, who were 36% less likely to develop heart disease and 33% less likely to die than people living alone who don't own dogs.

As a single dog owner, an individual is the sole person walking and interacting with their pet as opposed to married couples or households with children, which may contribute to greater protection from cardiovascular disease and death, said the study.

Owning a dog from breeds originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, was associated with the lowest risk of cardiovascular disorder.

Tove Fall, senior author of the study, said there were some limitations: "These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease".

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A group of Swedish scientists conducted research and used national registries from more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 in order to discover whether there is a connection between dog ownership and cardiovascular health.

A group of academics from Uppsala University in Sweden analyzed the health records of 3.4 million people in that northern European country, where databases contain detailed information on most everyone's hospitalizations, medical history and even whether they own a dog. As a result, the researchers posit, dog owners went out more and had added more social interaction than those without dogs. "Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner". The investment, though, may be worth it. Dog ownership, new research shows, is a form of natural insurance offering health and longevity, along with the affection of an animal companion.

While that might be true, there are enough other benefits to dog ownership to make it worth it. Dog owners are shown to be less depressed and make friends easier, according to a recent study.

The characteristics of people who decide to get a dog could also be influencing the findings. "Our observational study can not provide evidence for a causal effect of dog ownership on cardiovascular disease or mortality", they write. "In warmer climates, they could keep them in the yard and won't have to actively take them for a walk", said Fall.

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