Research

Want to live longer? Own a dog

Want to live longer? Own a dog

Now, the results of this study don't mean that there's a causal relationship between owning a dog and living longer. In addition, the single adults with dogs were 36 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

The findings, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, are based on data from more than 3.4 million Swedes between the ages of 40 and 80. They were also 11% less likely to have a heart attack, an effect that is not shown among people who live with others and is nearly certainly attributable to our children's leftover french fries. 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.

"There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health".

"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".

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.

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In short, the scientists found that dog owners had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases or many other causes during 12 years of follow-up.

Senior author Professor Tove Fall, said: 'We know dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results'. Other reasons might involve an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner.

The researchers believe that the single dog owners benefit from both walking and interacting with their pet. "Although careful attention was paid to adjusting for potential confounders in a set of sensitivity analyses, it is still possible that personal characteristics that we did not have information about affect the choice of not only acquiring a dog, but also the breed and the risk of CVD".

"Our observational study can not provide evidence for a causal effect of dog ownership on cardiovascular disease or mortality", they wrote. (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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