Owning a dog may lower your risk of death, scientists declare in an incredibly validating study published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports. The benefits are "especially prominent" for people who live alone, wrote Mwenya Mubanga, a Ph.D. candidate at Uppsala University in Sweden and the lead author of the study.
The Swedish team behind the positive findings tracked 3.4 million people over a dozen years. "Adults who live alone and owned a dog were 33 percent less likely to die during the study," ABC News reported, compared to adults living by themselves who did not have a canine companion. The dog owners were also 36 percent less likely to succumb to cardiovascular disease.
The study does not claim that dogs have magical effects on the human heart, however. Instead, it may just come down to the fact that having a dog makes you do healthy things: "Dogs may be beneficial in reducing cardiovascular risk by providing a non-human form of social support and increasing physical activity," the researchers wrote. And while it may be miserable to walk your dog in the pouring rain, the report notes that "dog ownership also supports the maintenance of physical activity during poor weather."
While the health benefits of dog ownership were most prominent for those who lived alone, the study did find that adults in multi-person households also saw reduced rates of mortality, though those findings were not as statistically significant.