Dog owners have lower mortality, study finds

Muriel Hammond
November 18, 2017

For instance, people who choose to get a dog are generally more active in the first place and of better health.

A study released shows that a dog really is your best friend. Especially for single people, "you have a different relationship" with your pet, Fall noted; it's something she felt herself.

People who live alone have been shown previously to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular death.

People who live with others also saw Fido-related benefits, but not as much as the single folks. "In individuals without CVD, dog ownership has been reported as inversely associated with the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, such as dyslipidemia, hypertension and diabetes, but other studies found absent or inconclusive associations".

"Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected", Mubanga added.

For the study, Mubanga and team used data from the Sweden's Register of the Total Population to evaluate the heart health of more than 3.4 million Swedes between 40 and 80 years old over 12 years (from 2001 to 2013).

"This could be because if you're the sole pet owner, you get more physical activity, and it could also show that dogs help alleviate stress from loneliness". Here's what else they found and details on how they conducted their study. Meta-analyses have confirmed dog owners are more active-especially in poor weather-than non-owners, and the animals can act as social supports, improving an owner's perception of their well-being. We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation for the observed results.

"Thanks to the population-based design, our results are generalizable to the Swedish population, and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership".

Fall believes that while their study provides strong evidence for the health benefits of dogs, their work is not done yet, since it does not answer why dogs achieve these results or why specific breeds seems to offer more protection. 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.

In addition, the researchers were hesitant to assert conclusively that the habits surrounding dog ownership lead to health. After all, a dog must be walked, so dog owners walk more than non-dog owners. "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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