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Owning A Dog Makes You Live Longer, Says Science

Researchers found, after looking at data from over 3 million people, that the increased social support and physical activity that comes from having a dog lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11% and death from any cause by 15%.

"This could be because if you're the sole pet owner, you get more physical activity, and it could also show that dogs help alleviate stress from loneliness".

People living alone fared the best, as owning a dog decreased their risk of death by 33 percent and their likelihood of a cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent, when compared to single individuals who do not have a pet.

Multi-person household owners also saw benefits, though to a lesser extent.

"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", Mubanga said.

For the study, Mubanga and team used data from the Sweden's Register of the Total Population to evaluate the heart health of more than 3.4 million Swedes between 40 and 80 years old over 12 years (from 2001 to 2013).

"We can not infer a causal relationship, however, dog ownership is associated with increased physical activity, improved psycho-social wellbeing and socialisation, all of which are associated with reduced CVD mortality- so it is plausible the effect is mediated though these mechanisms".




The study can not explain how dogs have a health-boosting impact, but the company alone may reduce stress and motivate people to live healthier lifestyles. We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation for the observed results.

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. Here's what else they found and details on how they conducted their study.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Owning a dog is associated with reduced mortality and risk of having heart disease".

While some previous studies have shown similar positive effects for pet ownership generally, others have shown the opposite effect.

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. More studies should be obtained in the United States", said Bond.

"However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy".

Scientists can't say that getting a dog will definitely help a person live longer, but Fall believes it's not a bad idea.

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