Health Buzz: Owning a Dog Associated With Lower Early Death Risk

Owning a dog comes with a plethora of benefits: unending hilarity, optimal cuddling and of course, non-stop love. But one new study says your irreplaceable pooch could even add years to your life.

The Swedish Uppsala University research, published earlier this month in Scientific Reports, took into account national registry and dog registry data of more than 3.4 million Swedish people, aged 40 to 80. Researchers found that during a 12-year follow-up, dog owners had a lower risk of dying early from cardiovascular disease or other causes.

Single dog owners saw a 33 percent lower risk of early death and 11 percent lower risk of a heart attack, opposed to single, non-dog owners, according to lead junior author of the study Mwenya Mubanga. Those studied didn't have previous cardiovascular disease before 2001.

The report also included a key piece of information for single people: Your dog really is like a member of your family.

"A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons 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," Mubanga said in a statement. "Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households."

Tove Fall, senior author of the study, said in the statement that studies like these don't offer answers on how dogs prevent cardiovascular disease. Explanations for the results could be that dog owners usually are more physically active, not to mention possible benefits the dog confers on its owner's bacterial microbiome.

"Dog ownership has many benefits, and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them," Dr. Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation told the BBC. "However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy."

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