London: Are you a dog owner? Your care and compassion for pets, especially dogs, can help you stay away from heart diseases, read great benefits of being a dog owner.
To study the link between dogs and longevity, researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden reviewed national registry records of Swedish men and women, ages 40 to 80. They focused on 3.4 million people who had no history of cardiovascular disease in 2001, and followed their health records—as well as whether they registered as a dog owner—for about 12 years. Dog owner registries are mandatory in Sweden, and every visit to a hospital is recorded in a national database.
They found that dog owner had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease than people who did not report owning a dog, as well as a lower risk of death from other causes. That was true even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, body mass index and socioeconomic status.
Further, for people living alone, dog ownership showed dramatic health benefits. Other studies have found that living alone leads to increased risk of heart disease. In this analysis, single dog owners had a 33% reduction in risk of death generally and 11% reduction in risk of heart disease compared to single people without dogs.
The team behind the Swedish study also observed a link between hunting breed ownership and heart health, which was unexpected. Among canine owners, those who had terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than owners of other dog breeds. But the statistical tie might have more to do with the lifestyles that those kinds of dog owners have, where they live—out in the country, rather than the city, say—and other factors, rather than anything specific to the actual breed of the dog.
There are other caveats to these findings. The study notes that a much smaller Norwegian study of the same subject, undertaken with similar methods, didn’t show a link between dog ownership and lower mortality. The Swedish team believes their results are reliable, however, because the sample size was so large. That said, when they looked at a subset of Swedes—42,000 twins engaged in an ongoing national analysis—they didn’t find a notable tie between dog ownership and longer life. They did note, however, that, for whatever reason, twins seemed to live in fewer one-person households.
Scientists can’t say that getting a dog will definitely help a person live longer, but Fall believes it’s not a bad idea. “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. “There are numerous studies showing that dog owners get more physical activity, which could help to prolong a healthy life.”