Dogs have always been considered to be a man’s best friend – but can they help you to live longer as well? A study conducted in Sweden may have the answer. Based on national registries of more than 3.4 million people between 40 and 80, they found that dog owners have a significantly lower risk of death during the 12 years that the study monitored them.
“A very interesting finding in our study was that the protective property of having a dog was especially prominent in people living alone, which is a group that has an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death. The dog may be an important member of the family in individual households. The results showed that single dog owners had a 33% reduction in the risk of death and an 11% reduction in the risk of myocardial infarction during follow-up compared to non-single ones,” says Mwenya Mubanga, lead author of the study.
This study is stronger than most since it has such a huge sample size, and the conclusion is very interesting. Fortunately, in Sweden each person has a personal identity number and there is a dog property registry that is mandatory in Sweden – so they were able to use publicly available data.
“Such epidemiological studies seek associations in large populations, but they do not provide answers on whether dogs could protect against cardiovascular disease or how. We know that dog owners generally have a higher level of physical activity, which could be an explanation for the observed result. Other explanations include greater welfare and social contacts or the dog’s effects on the bacterial microbiome in the owner, “says Tove Fall, lead author of the study.