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Dog owners have a lower risk of dying early
Dogs are not only man's best friends, they obviously also extend the lives of their owners. The risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease is significantly lower in dog owners than in people without a dog, according to a recent Swedish study. Singles in particular benefit from living with their four-legged friends.
The current study shows that "dog owners had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes during the 12-year follow-up," reports Uppsala University in Sweden. Dogs therefore have a very positive effect on the life expectancy of their owners. The results of the Swedish study were published in the scientific reports.
Relationship between dog ownership and cardiovascular health
The Swedish team of researchers evaluated the data from more than 3.4 million Swedes without cardiovascular disease and compared it with the available dog registries to verify the relationship between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. "The scientists investigated whether registration as a dog owner could be linked to a later diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases or death for any reason," reports the University of Uppsala. The age of the subjects was between 40 and 80 years.
Singles especially benefit from a dog
"A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership stood out as a protective factor in people living alone (singles)," said Mwenya Mubanga, lead author of the study and PhD student at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at the university Uppsala. It is known from previous studies that the group of singles actually has a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and deaths than people who live in a multi-person household. Possibly the dog offers a kind of replacement as an important “family member” in single households.
Dog breed also important
According to the researchers, living dog owners alone showed a 33 percent lower risk of premature death compared to non-dog owners living alone - and an 11 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction during aftercare. The researchers also found that the different dog breeds appear to have different effects here. Owners of dogs from breeding groups that were originally bred for hunting were the most protected, according to the scientists.
The causes of the relationship are unclear
The current epidemiological studies have shown clear statistical associations, but the question whether and how dogs protect against cardiovascular diseases cannot be answered, the researchers concede. "We know that dog owners generally have a higher level of physical activity, which could explain the results observed," the Swedish scientists continued.
Further explanations for the positive effect
But not only the increased physical activity is a possible reason for the lower risk of premature death among dog owners. "Other explanations include increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner," explains study leader Prof. Tove Fall.
Are there any differences before?
The explanation may also lie in differences that already exist before buying a dog, Prof. Fall continues. For example, those who choose to keep a dog could basically be more active and healthier people. In principle, however, the results of the current study are transferable to the entire Swedish population - "and probably also to other European populations with a similar culture regarding the ownership of dogs," says Fall. (fp)