According to the study managed to establish that the dog in the family significantly reduces the risk of premature death by more than 33%, and also prevent the development of diseases of the cardiovascular system by more than 11%.
The study also says that having a dog increases people's motivation to be more active and add more physical activity into their lives, especially in single-person households where the individuals are exclusively responsible for walking and exercising with their pets. Little Fido also gives you some much-needed social interaction if you live alone. In the study, Fall analysed the effects of different breeds and found that owners of dogs originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds, had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease.
The team at Uppsala University analyzed national registries involving 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 without any prior cardiovascular diseases as of 2001.
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The results? Dog owners - especially dog owners who lived alone - had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
While the link between dog ownership and a reduced risk of death from any cause is clear, the findings do not reveal the specific factors on why or how.
"This was one of the most interesting findings: we see that dogs have a larger impact in households without other humans", Tove Fall, the study's senior author and an associate professor at Uppsala University, told The Local.
There are several possible reasons for the positive effects dogs appear to have on their owners' health, though the study did not look into this specifically.
There's no particular reason to think the results would differ in the United States; it would really depend on how similar Americans' attitudes and behaviors as dog parents are to Swedish pet owners. 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. "Our observational study can not provide evidence for a causal effect of dog ownership on cardiovascular disease or mortality", they write. We've known for a while that you live longer when you live with someone else, but the added benefit of having a dog is that they need to get outside and go for walks, which forces us to get up and take them no matter how exhausted we are or what the weather is like.
In addition, the researchers were hesitant to assert conclusively that the habits surrounding dog ownership lead to health.
Scientists said the companionship was key, along with the physical activity in taking it for a walk.
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