"What we've found is that the best association and the best plausible mechanism is that the people who own dogs clearly exercise more", Levine said. For starters, we do know that having a dog means (well, requires) a higher level of physical activity - basically acting as a furry personal trainer that ensures you get your steps in taking it on walks and refilling its food and water bowl. For those in larger households, the risk of death was 11% lower among dog owners, the researchers write in Scientific Reports.
The landmark study of more than 3.4 million older people found Britain's favourite pet reduces the likelihood of heart disease and combats loneliness.
"The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 per cent reduction in risk of death and 11 per cent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease during follow-up compared to single non-owners". A group of Swedish scientists conducted research and used national registries from more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 in order to discover whether there is a connection between dog ownership and cardiovascular health.
However, dogs themselves might not be bringing about positive health effects, said Dr John Bradshaw, a pet researcher at the University of Bristol who was not involved in the study.
They were a third less likely to die during the study period.
The study can not explain how dogs have a health-boosting impact, but the company alone may reduce stress and motivate people to live healthier lifestyles.
The decrease was strongest in people who lived alone.
She added: "There might also be very important effects of social support you get, from your dog and meeting people through your dog".
The study authors were also surprised to find that people who owned dogs that were originally bred for hunting-like terriers, retrievers and scent hounds-were the most protected from heart disease and death. "Thanks to the population-based design, our results are generalizable to the Swedish population, and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership", Fall concluded in the statement. It adds adds to mounting evidence about the benefits of living with a canine companion.
"However, as many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy".
Even in such cases, the authors wrote, dog ownership has consistently been linked to improved survival in coronary artery disease patients.More news: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers take NY subway ride following Monday shootaround
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