Dogs are not only known to be good companions, but also may help reduce the risk of heart problems by giving their humans social support and prompting them to get more exercise, new research has found.
The study, published Friday in the Swedish publication Scientific Reports, found that dog ownership reduced the risk of death for people living alone by 33 percent and cut their risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent. Their chances of a heart attack were reduced by 11 percent.
The risk of death among dog owners in households with more than one person was reduced by 11 percent, and their risk of cardiovascular-related death decreased by 15 percent.
The especially steep decline among single owners may be explained by the fact that they tend to be the ones most likely to interact with dogs and take them for a walk. Owners of all kinds also may be less stressed, which reduces the risk of a heart attack.
The scientists said they sifted through data on 3.4 million people listed in a Swedish register, including a sampling of self-reported health and lifestyle habits for 34,202 people with an average age of 57.
Ownership of hunting-breed dogs brought the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the researchers reported in a summary of their findings. “In conclusion, dog ownership appears to be associated with lower risk of CVD in single-person households and lower mortality in the general population,” they wrote.