Dog owners know there are many benefits to having a furry family member, but new research shows that dog owners actually live longer than people without a pooch.
A team of scientists in Sweden used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. In Sweden, every person has a unique personal identity number. Every hospital visit is recorded in national databases, and this information is accessible to researchers after de-identification of data. Dog ownership registration has been mandatory in Sweden since 2001. These scientists studied whether being registered as a dog-owner was associated with later diagnosis of cardiovascular disease or death from any cause. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease or to other causes during the 12-year follow-up period.
“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results. Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner,” says Tove Fall, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.
“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,” says Mwenya Mubanga, lead junior author of the study and PhD student at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University. “Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households. The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease during follow-up compared to single non-owners.”
The study, published in Scientific Reports, certainly adds one more reason to feel good about living with man’s (and woman’s!) best friend.