You may have heard that owning a dog is good for health, but did you know that owning a dog may also prolong your life? That is the conclusion of a massive Swedish study, that examined canine ownership and the risk of dying during a 12-year study.
The researchers, who published their work in the November 2017 edition of Scientific Reports, studied dog ownership in more than 3.4 million Swedes, ages 40 to 80 years. Large studies like this are easier in Sweden, because all canine pets are registered in a national database, and dog ownership can easily be linked to the health records of each Swedish citizen.
Results of owning a dog
After the 12-year study period, the researchers correlated the risk of death and dog ownership. They found that adults that owned a dog had a 20% lower risk of dying during the 12-year study period. Owning this type of pet seemed to most significantly decrease the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, which is, worldwide, the number one cause of death.
Why a dog helps health
The research showed also that the people who owned dogs walked more than people without, and that is one reason they live longer. They are also more likely to walk outside even in bad weather.
The other reason that a pet is a true companion, which substantially diminishes social isolation and loneliness, a problem that has been highly liked to poor health. Especially older people, and people living alone, seem to gain the most from pet ownership. They have someone to keep them company, something to care for, and something that gets them out of the house to walk, even in bad weather.
There are other health advantages to owning a dog. Several studies have shown that children in homes with canine pets get sick less often, and a lower risk of asthma. Other studies have shown that eye contact with your canine friend increases the owner’s levels of oxytocin (the so called “love hormone”),
Other pets and breeds
This Swedish study only studied canine ownership, as, in Sweden, this pet ownership can be accurately correlated with health records. But it is likely that other pets, such as cats, offer health benefits as well, since other pets also can relieve loneliness. However, a dog may be better because they require that you exercise with them. The study noted that certain breeds, those that require lots of exercise such as retrievers and hunting breeds, gave more health benefits than less active breeds.
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