UPPSALA, Sweden — Thinking of getting a pet, but not sure it’s worth it? Some new research may change your mind. A new study finds that dog owners enjoy longer lives than others.
Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden looked at a broad set of data on more than 3.4 million healthy adult Swedes between ages 40 and 80 to determine whether dog ownership could help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Interestingly, owning a dog was determined to be a preventive factor for those who lived by themselves, among whom cardiovascular disease and premature death are typically seen at higher rates.
“The results showed that single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death and 11% reduction in risk of myocardial infarction during follow-up compared to single non-owners,” says Mwenya Mubanga, one of the study’s lead authors, in a university news release. “Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected.”
The researchers remain uncertain as to the mechanisms guiding improved health in dog owners, but suggested some possibilities.
“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results,” explains Tove Fall, the study’s senior author. “Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner.”
Of course, it is also possible that “people choosing to get a dog tend to be more active and of better health” by nature, Fall argues.
Fall believes that her team’s findings likely apply to not only Swedish individuals, but many living in regions with similar attitudes toward dog ownership, including much of Europe.
The researchers published their findings last week in the journal Scientific Reports.