Most people treat their dogs like members of the family or best friends, and while the enjoyment of owning one is clear for many, perhaps the benefits have been underestimated.
A team of researchers from Sweden’s Uppsala University has linked dog ownership to longer life. In a study, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, the team lists a whole host of reasons why owning a Fido or Lassie could be beneficial to your health.
Specifically, the scientists found that canine fans had a greatly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease compared to their dog-shy counterparts, during the 12-year period studied. They posit that this has something to do with the amount of exercise, from walking their companions for example, or playing fetch in the park, dog owners get.
Though it also may be a case of more active people choosing to own a dog over their couch potato peers. In addition, the benefits for dog-loving singletons are clear.
“A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household. Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households,”wrote study author Mwenya Mubanga.
“The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of myocardial infarction during follow-up compared to single non-owners,” Mubanga added.
Another interesting facet of the study is that the breed of dog chosen had differing degrees of cardiovascular disease risk. For example, those who owned dogs originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, had the lowest risk of the disorder.
Other explanations for the decreased risk, according to lead researcher Tove Fall, include “an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner.”
For the study the team examined the data of more than 3.4 million Swedes, aged 40-80, from 2001 to 2012. Every visit to a hospital is recorded in national databases in Sweden, and dog owners have had to register their pets since 2001.