Got A Dog? You Have Lower Risks Of Dying From Cardiovascular Disease, Says Study

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A Swedish research team has found that owning a dog lowers risks of death associated with cardiovascular disease and other causes.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers used national registries, which included information on over 3.4 million Swedes between the ages of 40 and 80 to explore the relationship between owning a dog and an individual's cardiovascular health. Everyone included in the research didn't have any kind of cardiovascular disease in 2001.

Dog Ownership Benefits

According to the researchers' findings, dog ownership offered particular protective benefit for persons living alone, a subgroup previously reported to have higher risks of cardiovascular disease and death. Specifically, single dog owners had 33 percent lower risks of death and 11 percent lower risks of myocardial infarction, with those owning hunter dog breeds experiencing the most benefit.

"Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in single households," said Mwenya Mubanga, the study's lead junior author.

Why Are Dogs Good For One's Health?

Epidemiological studies like this one look for connections within large populations but don't offer explanations as to how and whether dogs could offer protection against cardiovascular disease. Tove Fall, the study's senior author, said that one reason behind the results they observed could be that dog owners are generally more active physically than those who don't have canine companions.

Another is that dog ownership translates to a higher level of social contact and well-being or that a dog can have an effect on its owner's bacterial microbiome, which affects their health. According to Fall, it's also entirely possible that dog owners and non-owners are already different well before man's best friend entered the picture.

"Our results are generalizable to the Swedish population, and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership," added the senior author.

Dog Ownership Research

In Sweden, each person is assigned a unique identity number. Every time an individual goes to the hospital, their visit is recorded in the nation's databases, which researchers can access after data has been scrubbed clean of information that can identify people. Registering dog ownership has also been mandatory in the country since 2001.

The study was carried out by researchers from Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Karolinska Institute, and Stanford University. It also received funding support from the Göran Gustafsson Foundation, the Agria-SKK Research Foundation, and the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences, and Spatial Planning.

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