Owning dog linked to lower risk of dying earlier

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Those in multi-person households also had a lower risk of mortality if they owned a dog, and hunting breed dogs specifically helped to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Using national registries in Sweden to track the lives of over 3.4 million citizens who had no prior history of cardiovascular ailments back in 2001, the study followed the health status of each individual over many years.

A new study says that having a dog may keep your heart healthy in the old age. Risk of death among these dog owners fell by 11% and their chances of cardiovascular death were 15% lower.

"Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households", Mubanga said. Study authors believe that this is mainly due to factors that can boost cardiovascular risks such as depression and social isolation. At the beginning of the study, none of them had been diagnosed with heart disease.

A group of academics from Uppsala University in Sweden analysed the health records of 3.4 million people in the country, where databases contain detailed information on nearly everyone's hospitalisations, medical history and even whether they own a dog.

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After drilling down further, the researchers discovered that people living alone gained the most benefits from dog ownership. The researchers compared the health of people who owned and didn't own dogs by cross checking with Sweden's detailed dog ownership databases.

'Other explanations include an increased wellbeing and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome (gut bacteria) in the owner'.

"We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results", Tove said.

However, the authors recognise the limitations of the study, as the data doesn't show the differences between owners and non-owners before getting a dog, which could have influenced results. Either way, the dogs are probably going to lick you all over.