DOG OWNERS LIVE LONGER

Dog owners know that our pets really are man’s best friend, according to a recent study that shows that canine companions may reduce our risk of premature death by up to thirty percent. Our four-legged friends could help to increase our lives and here are the facts.

DOG OWNERS LIVE LONGER

From an analysis of more than three and a half million adults, researchers found that people who owned dogs — particularly those  living a lone in a  household — were at lower risk of cardiovascular dieases and other causes of mortality, over a 12-year period, compared with people who did not own a dog.

The study was conducted by researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden, and the findings were recently reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

Dogs are one of America’s favorite pets; around  50 percent of households in the United States own at least one dog.

Most dog owners or at least a majority of them, would consider their four-legged friends to be a part of the family.  They bring us happiness, companionship, love, and they never fail to make us laugh with their playful personalities.

However an increasing number of studies are starting to show that our dogs could be good for our health. One study,  reported earlier this year by Medical News Today revealed that dogs might help to lessen childhood  stress while more recent  research found that letting dogs sleep in the bedroom at night could benefit owners’ sleep quality.

Also, research has shown that dogs may help to increase owners’ exercise levels, which could help to increase their cardiovascular health.

The new study is seeking to explore this association further. Specifically, it looked at how owning a dog might influence the risk of death from cardiovascular disease as well as other causes.

Man's best friend and death risk

For their study,  Mwenya Mubanga the lead junior author from the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University gathered health, mortality, and dog ownership data for 3,432,153 individuals who were living in Sweden.

The information was taken from a total of seven national data sources, including the Swedish National Patient Register, the Cause of Death Register, the Swedish Twin Register, and the Swedish Kennel Club.

All individuals were free of cardiovascular disease when the data began being collected in 2001, and they were followed-up on  over an average time frame of 12 years.

MAN'S BEST FRIEND AND DEATH RISK​

Compared with individuals who did not own a dog, the people in multi-person and single-person households who did own a dog had an 10 percent to 30 percent lower risk, respectively, of all causes of death.

In single-person households, dog ownership was tied to a 35 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death, while dog ownership in multi-person households was linked to a 15 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular death.

The most robust evidence so far for lower risk of death by dog ownership is the researchers note that their study was not designed to identify the reasons why dog ownership might lower the risk of premature death, but how and why.  And they have some theories.

“We found that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity,” explains senior study author Tove Fall of the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University, “which could be one explanation to the observed results.”

“Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner,” she adds.

It is also unclear why people living in single-person households appear to benefit more from dog ownership. “Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households,” Mubanga speculates.

Fall points out that the study’s population-based design means that the results could potentially be generalizable to the entire Swedish population, as well as other populations who have similar dog ownership cultures.

The researchers conclude:

“Taken together, we believe our longitudinal population-wide design provides the most robust evidence so far of a link between dog ownership and health outcomes, although bias from reverse causation, misclassification, and confounding cannot be excluded.”