Owning dog linked to lower risk of dying earlier

Alicia Guzman
November 18, 2017

The psychological effects of owning a dog are well-known: A furry housemate can reduce stress and improve well-being.

"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", Fall said.

Swedish researchers have found a positive relationship between dog ownership and a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular diseases or to other causes.

"The responsibilities associated with dog ownership impose mandatory daily exercise - a schedule which can not be impacted by adverse weather conditions, personal commitments or mood swings", Wolf-Klein said.

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To study the link between dogs and longevity, researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden reviewed national registry records of Swedish men and women, ages 40 to 80.

But Fall does not believe that getting more exercise explains all, or even most, of the health effects that come with dog ownership.

The results were most robust in single people: For these individuals, dog ownership was linked to a 33% reduced risk of mortality from any cause (it was 11% for multiple-person households), compared to non-owners. It's possible that dog owners are healthier and more active before they get a canine companion, she said. Every person has been given a unique personal identity number, which is recorded with every visit to the hospital in national databases.

According to the study, single dog owners had greater protection from cardiovascular disease and death because they were the sole person interacting with their pet as opposed to couples and families.

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Another small study found that people who walked dogs five times a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds over a year, which also helps heart health.

The study authors were also surprised to find that people who owned dogs that were originally bred for hunting-like terriers, retrievers and scent hounds-were the most protected from heart disease and death.

"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", Tove Fall, a senior author of the study and a professor at Uppsala University, said in a statement.

Scientists say that at the beginning of the research none of these participants had no health problems, and therefore managed to get a good example of how the appearance of the pet is displayed on the circulatory system and whether the impact on premature death.

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