Dog owners live longer, study says

A new study shows that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease compared to single non-dog owners.
By Ed Mason | Nov 20, 2017
A new study by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden shows that dog owners especially people living alone had a lower risk of death during a 12-year period, including fatalities from heart diseases or other causes.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers reviewed national registry records of Swedish men and women, ages 40 to 80.

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 compared to single non-dog owners.

"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 lead junior author Mwenya Mubanga, a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University's Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, in a statement.

How and why dog ownership confers health benefits is unclear.

"These kinds of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease," says senior author Tove Fall, Associate Professor in Epidemiology at Uppsala. "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 more social contacts and increased sense of well-being or even the effects of a dog on the owner's microbiome.

"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," adds Fall.

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