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Science just proved that owning a dog makes you live longer

Published Nov 18th, 2017 12:45AM EST
Image: ETersigni

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Dogs are great, and caring for a canine often comes with plenty of benefits. They make us laugh, keep us from being bored, and are often quite skilled at the art of snuggling, but new research just proved that owning a dog actually reduces your chances of dying by a significant margin.

Past studies have suggested that dog (and cat) owners are happier overall, and some of the data has pointed to longer life, but none of the research was even close to definitive. This new project is absolutely massive in scale, and the team of scientists conducting it have drawn their conclusions from a whopping 3.4 million individual data points, giving its outcome some serious weight.

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. Thanks to mandatory dog ownership registries, the researchers were able to determine if each of the subjects was a pet owner or not, and with years and years of health records at their fingertips, they were able to determine the mortality rates of dog owners vs. those who don’t have canine companions.

The results left little doubt that having a dog reduces your overall mortality, with risk of death being roughly 33 percent lower in dog owners who lived alone. That same group benefited from an 11 percent drop in risk of cardiovascular disease as well, when compared to their non-dog-owning peers. 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.

The reasons for these trends is probably fairly obvious: Dogs love to be outside and most of them require daily walks or play time to expend their energy. Dog owners are often motivated by their animals to get up off the couch and head out into the world, even if it’s just for a short stroll, and those healthy behaviors resulted in decreased risk of death. Those who choose breeds for hunting would likely already be considered outdoorsy types, and regular exercise has long been associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular diseases.

If you find yourself being lazy but just can’t work up the motivation to take a daily walk or jog, a pup might do the trick!