A broad new study of over 3.4 million Swedes found that dog owners have a longer life expectancy and lifespan, as well as, a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study was published in Scientific Reports by a team of Swedish researchers.
The study looked at people aged 40 to 80, comparing national registries with dog ownership registries, analyzing data from 2001 to 2012.
In Sweden, national databases record and store every hospital visit of its citizens. Similarly, dog ownership registration has been mandatory since 2001.
The researchers found that dog owners who were single had a 33 percent reduction in the risk of death as compared to non-dog owners.
Researchers found that dog owners, particularly those who owned hunting breeds, had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The lowest risk of cardiovascular problems was associated with the ownership of terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds.
Single dog owners had an 11 percent reduction in the risk of heart attacks compared to those who did not own dogs. This is in light of other studies which have shown that people who live alone have a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular death.
Researchers said there are a number of factors that could be responsible for improved cardiovascular findings. They suggested that owning a dog increases the owners’ social contact or well-being.
Another possibility was that owning a dog change the owner’s bacterial microbiome.
The microbiome is what doctors call “good” bacteria. Many of these microbes are essential for good health. They benefit fit our gut health and our immune system.
The human microbiome, or microbiota, is the aggregate of microorganisms that resides on or within any of a number of human tissues and biofluids. In short, we become sort of a walking ecosystem where this community of microbes lives.
These microbes can be found on the skin, mammary glands, placenta, seminal fluid, uterus, ovarian follicles, lung, saliva, oral mucosa, conjunctiva, biliary and gastrointestinal tracts. They include bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi, and viruses.
Researchers believe that the microbiome of dogs changes that of its owner. The microbiome of the dog gets mixed in with the home environment, which exposes people in the home to bacteria they may not have encountered otherwise, bacterial that may be beneficial to human health.