Is Dog Ownership Connected To Better Health?

Steve Phelps
November 18, 2017

As a result, they were able to study whether having a registered dog was associated with cardiovascular disease and death in people with no history of the illness, over a 12-year period.

Dog owners have a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes, a study of 3.4 million Swedes has found.

A dog can decrease the risk of death by 33 percent and the risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent for people who live alone versus singles without a pet.

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease", Tove Fall, a senior author of the study and a professor at Uppsala University, said in a statement.

The findings also suggest increased social well-being and immune system development as additional reasons why dog ownership offers protection against cardiovascular disease and death. "Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected", explains Mwenya Mubanga, lead junior author of the study and Ph.D. student at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University (as cited in an article by the university posted on the Laboratory Equipment website). "We observed, for example, that owners of dogs of different hunting breeds stood out as healthier".

While some previous studies have shown similar positive effects for pet ownership generally, others have shown the opposite effect. "I think that a pet brings a lot of joy and companionship into a house, so if a person has the capacity to take care of it, they certainly should", she says.

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"However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy".

She added: "There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health".

The risk of death fell by 11 percent in households with multiple people. The relationship may work both ways though, with livelier dogs effectively demanding that their owners do not slip into an overly-sedentary lifestyle.

As far as companions in life go (and we're including people in this) dogs are the best.

Cardiovascular disease causes more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all deaths in the United Kingdom 160,000 each year.

"In Sweden, we're not so good at talking to people we don't know, and a dog could help with that; it's an ice-breaker for interaction with other humans", Hall added.

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