Swedish scientists have discovered that people who have dogs are 23% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, concluding that dog owners have longer lives.
The Swedish Study
The study was conducted by the authors at Uppsala University. They analyzed the data of 3.4 million Swedish citizens 40 to 80 year old. Since all dogs in Sweden have to be registered with the Swedish Board of Agriculture, the scientists could track the results of dog owners vs. people who didn’t have dogs. The study included the data collected over 12 years.
Since all hospital visits are also recorded, the researchers had the insight they needed to determine if dog owners were healthier than people who don’t live with canine companions. And the results look promising for the dog owners, especially those that live alone with their dogs.
The dog owners had a five times lower risk of death overall and 23% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Previous studies suggested that people who lived alone had a higher risk of death than those in multi-person households. Now, there are good news for all the ‘loners’ out there. People who lived alone and had a canine companion had a 33% lower risk of death and their risk of a deadly cardiovascular event went down a staggering 36%.
dog owners had a five times lower risk of death overall and 23% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease
Now if that’s not a reason to get a dog, we don’t know what is. Of course, people in multi-person households also experience the benefits of dog ownership, but to a lower extent. Their risk of death dropped by 11% and risk of cardiovascular death by 15%, which is still worth mentioning. Yet, there we are trying to come up with a longevity pill, not seeing what’s right in front of us.
The benefits of dog ownership are obvious. You’ll get more exercise (whether you like it or not), you’ll get a loyal companion, and more social connections. Dog owners have to walk more, simply due to their dog’s needs, and during these walks they can meet other dog owners and dog lovers and create new relationships and friendships.
The study also suggests that bigger and more active dogs such as retrievers and pointers have a larger impact on their owner’s lives than smaller and less active breeds. This is not a surprise, since a more active dog needs more activity, hence their owners will also be more active. Nonetheless, owning any dog can do wonders for a person’s physical and mental health.
Study In England Confirms Health Benefits
Another study conducted in England reveals that people who have dogs walk an average of 23 minutes more per day than the other group. Dog owners were also far more likely to meet the World Health organization’s recommendation for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
Physical activity is probably the biggest contributing factor to a lower risk of death among dog owners. However, there are other benefits as well. Dogs provide emotional support and stability, which can affect blood pressure levels. Studies suggest that having a dog can lower blood pressure and help people recover faster from a stressful event.
There are also other factors of dog ownership that can affect lifespan. There’s no definitive proof yet, but some researchers suggest that dog owners can have a stronger immune system. Since dogs bring dirt and certain bacteria into the home, this affects the owner’s bacterial microbiome and can make them more resistant to some types of illness.
However, there’s another important factor we should consider. The Swedish study didn’t include the people who had a prior record of cardiovascular disease so we can’t say what effects a dog would have on this group. And some researchers suggest that we should be cautious with making claims about the health effects on dog ownership. They emphasize the fact that people who decide to get dogs may simply have better exercise habits than those who dread the responsibility of having to take the dog out for a walk at least twice a day.
Getting a Labrador retriever might not be a good idea for everybody, but we can’t deny the fact that canines have a large impact on our lives. They provide friendship, can boost social relationships, help with stress management, increase motivation, and affect your exercise habits. Since all of this has the potential to improve your satisfaction with life and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, we think that dog ownership is a step worth considering.