No doubt the cat versus dog debate will carry on, but we have some great news for canine lovers. According to research recently disclosed in Scientific Reports, having a pooch can add years to your life.
A team of scientists at Uppsala University tracked the health and dog ownership status of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 years old for 12 years, starting in 2001. No one involved had a history of cardiovascular illness.
Everyone in Sweden must carry a special personal identification number, all clinic appointments are recorded, and dog ownership registration is obligatory, which makes it the ideal case study for this sort of experiment.
As the investigators point out, however, the results can be generalized to all other countries with a comparable culture towards dog ownership (covering other European countries and the US).
The investigators discovered that canine owners were less at risk of dying from a cardiovascular condition and other causes. If they owned a pure breed, that is. The results were less evident for those who owned mixed-breeds.
On average, people’s risk of death in a multi-person household was cut down by 11 percent, with their risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease dropped by 15 percent. The health benefit was indeed more noticeable in single-person households.
“Perhaps a doggie may stand in as an important family member in the single households,” Mwenya Mubanga, lead junior author of the research and PhD student at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University, pointed out in a statement.
“The results indicated that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of myocardial infarction during follow-up compared to single non-owners.”So why does having a dog seem so good for you?
The investigation displayed a correlational link between dog ownership and longer lives but didn’t explore the reasons behind it. The scientists do, however, present some potential answers.
“We learned that dog owners, in general, have a higher degree of physical activity, which could be one cause to the observed results,” Tove Fall, senior author of the study and associate professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University, mentioned in a statement.
This is backed up by the fact that hunting dogs like terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds need more exercise. “Alternative causes include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner,” Tove added.
Tove also indicates, however, some limitations of the research: “There might also be variations between owners and non-owners already before purchasing a dog, which could have affected our results, such as those individuals electing to have a dog tending to be more active and of better health.”