How owning a dog might add years to your life

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With around 44% of households owning a dog, it isn’t surprising to hear they are a very popular choice of pet. They can provide hours of entertainment, as well as change the lives of people with impaired vision, and bring joy to individuals everywhere. But would you believe that owning a dog could help you live longer? Well, new research could give you just another reason to want a four-legged friend in your life.

The study

Back in 2001, more than 3.4 million Swedish people signed up to a brand new study. There were some strict guidelines, as the participants had to have no previous history of any cardiovascular diseases, as well as being happy to have their lives tracked. Over the next 12 years, the researchers behind the study spent their time monitoring how everyone was getting on with their lives.

While some of the participants owned dogs, others had no pets at all. After the twelve years was up, the many brains behind the operation checked in to see how everyone was getting along. Some of the participants had passed away, while others were going strong. After going through all the information (and there was a lot of it), the researchers unearthed some unbelievable results.

The results were in

After ruling out other factors – such as age and gender – the researchers were able to deduce just how owning a dog had affected the pet owner’s lives. The stats were shocking. For the people in the study that had a dog living with them, they had a 20% lower chance of dying than people that lived without pets. This wasn’t all. The individuals that were single and lived alone had an even lower risk at 33%.

In the group of dog owners, everyone had an 8% lower chance of suffering from any form of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure or a stroke. All of these statistics were compared to people in the non-dog owning group, but the findings don’t end there. If multiple people were living in a house together, bringing a dog into the family still had the same benefits when it came to decreasing your chances of death.

The reasoning behind the discovery

While the researchers were able to find out how a dog affects people’s lives, they weren’t able to deduce the precise reasoning as to why they affected individual’s lives. However, they have been able to take some educated guesses. One thought is that having a dog means you are more likely to be active. As most dogs enjoy going for walkies every day, or throwing a ball around in the yard, having a four-legged companion can be an excellent excuse to get up and active.

This could be exaggerated more with people that live alone as there is no one else to take care of the pet. Another thought behind the lowered risks is because dogs have been proven to reduce stress. Less stress means having lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of developing any form of heart disease. Overall, dogs just make us happier human beings!

The future

Sadly, while any dog lover would love to promote the fact that their pooches are helping them live longer and healthier lives, there still needs to be more research to definitively prove it is the dogs helping us live longer and not any other factors such as health or family history. This also doesn’t mean that everyone is equipped to look after a dog; they can be expensive animals to care for in addition to requiring a lot of time and dedication. If someone already has an illness or struggles to fund their lives, then adding in a dog may not be the best decision.

We always knew that dogs were brilliant, but now there is even more reason to ‘aww’ every time you see one – you’re extending your life! These companions have brought us enjoyment for nearly 16,000 years, but this study gives us a whole new reason to want to bring a dog into our homes. While taming a wolf may not be the best idea nowadays, heading down to the local shelter and helping you and a little one to a better life could just be the way forward.

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