Why owning a dog might help you live longer

33 pc reduction? Your dog is protecting you from this disease

The study, which is the largest to date on the health implications of owning a dog, suggested that some of the reasons dog owners may have a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease were because dog owners walk more.

Over the next 12 years, investigators found that dog owners in general had a lower risk of death due to cardiac disease, according to the research published in the Scientific Reports.

The study also says that having a dog increases people's motivation to be more active and add more physical activity into their lives, especially in single-person households where the individuals are exclusively responsible for walking and exercising with their pets. In addition, the single adults with dogs were 36 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

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

The study looked at previously self-reported data on almost 3.5 million Swedes between the ages of 40 and 80.

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By evaluating health records, it found that registered dog owners had a lower risk of having heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions. 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. Dogs can alleviate psychosocial stress, depression and loneliness, according to the study, all of which are stressors that can encourage coronary heart disease, cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality.

Fall added that because all participants of the study were Swedish, the results most closely apply to dog owners in Sweden or other "European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership". Whereas many studies about the health benefits of a given intervention, be it diet or lifestyle or animal companion, are limited to correlation-meaning, the two things are linked but without proof of one causing the other-Fall is ready to make that jump. Just over 13% had pet dogs.

They also said owning a dog may protect people from cardiovascular disease by increasing their social contact or wellbeing, or by changing the owner's bacterial microbiome.

Dog owners were more likely to be younger than non-owners, Fall and colleagues wrote, and were more likely to live in rural areas.

Experts in the United States agreed that the findings made sense. "I think that a pet brings a lot of joy and companionship into a house, so if a person has the capacity to take care of it, they certainly should", she says.

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