A new study conducted in Sweden will give you even more of a reason to want to own a dog if you don’t already. According to research published in Scientific Reports, having a dog can help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease or even death.
The study included 3.4 million individuals between the ages of 40 and 80 that were sampled over a 12-year period from the Swedish Twin Register and national databases. One main focus was household size — mainly how much a dog can help an individual versus its effects on a family.
Compared to people without a pet, those that live alone but with a dog showed a 33 percent less risk of death, and a 36 percent decrease in cardiovascular deaths. It also showed that their chances of having a heart attack were 11 percent lower.
“A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household,” said author of the study Mwenya Mubang, who is also a PhD student at Uppsala University.
For multi-person households owning a dog, risk of deaths were down 11 percent, with cardiovascular related deaths going down 15 percent. However, there was no lower risk of heart attack, meaning that having a dog might literally save you from dying of a heart attack if you don’t live with anyone.
Aspects that seem to benefit the individual also stem from being their dog’s sole proprietor of exercise, as opposed to those households that share the duties of going out for walks or partaking in various other forms of exercise. Exercise is known to be an effective way to stifle heart disease.
Dogs are also commonly known for improving human life in other ways as well, including lowering stress, improving your social life, as well as strengthening your immune system thanks to all the germs they bring into your house.
“It may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events,” said Dr. Rachel Bond, who is New York City’s Associate Director of Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital.
There are also some additional variables in this study though. Since it wasn’t taking any people who already had heart disease into account, that could play a factor, and it also led those conducting the study to conclude that herding and hunting breeds had more of an effect on their owners than smaller breeds did.
It’s also important to remember that this particular study was done in Sweden, but its authors insist it could be comparable to the United States considering their implementation of dogs in the regular lifestyle. Dr. Bond wasn’t necessarily convinced.
“I think it would be hard to take the data from Sweden and apply it to the US since we have a more diverse population. More studies should be obtained in the United States,” she said.