Dog ownership linked to living longer, study finds

Henrietta Brewer
November 17, 2017

Are you a dog lover? 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. Some owned dogs and some didn't.

Dog ownership is especially prominent as a protective factor for people 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.

But it's also possible-and very likely, says senior author Tove Fall, a veterinarian and associate professor of epidemiology-that taking care of a dog prompts people to stay active and live a healthier lifestyle.

Owners of hunting breeds, including terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds, were most protected from cardiovascular disease and death.


"This study in particular, excluded patients with heart disease in general, and we know that disabled people may be less likely to own a dog so that really raises the question if owning a dog lead to heart health or is it merely a marker for people who are more likely to have good heart health", said Dr.

To better understand the influence of pets on humans' heart health, the researchers compared the population data to records of dog ownership during that same 12-year period.

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". The goal was to determine whether dog owners had a different risk of cardiovascular disease and death than non-dog owners.

"Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households".


Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have posited the theory that this is due to the fact that dogs have the ability to change their owner's bacterial microbiome by exposing them to bacteria they had not yet encountered.

More than 3.4 million individuals, aged 40 to 80, were included in the study, which was published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Just over 13% had pet dogs.

Bond commented that owners of hunting breeds may be getting more exercise because these dogs are more active as opposed to small dogs who do not require as much exercise. Other studies have suggested that growing up with a dog in the house can decrease allergies and asthma in children, and Fall says that pets may provide immune-boosting benefits for adults as well.

The dog is the most popular pet in the United Kingdom, with 24 percent of people owning one.


The study can not explain how dogs have a health-boosting impact, but the company alone may reduce stress and motivate people to live healthier lifestyles. Single people might also get a stronger emotional support from their furry friends since they don't live with a husband or have kids, Fall says.

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