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Dogs may help lonely people walk off heart disease

21 November 2017, 01:06 | Lucy Hill

That dog in your home could be a lifesaver

Dog owner

And while it's important to note the results aren't causal (no one with a heart condition was included in this study, for example), it's the latest in a pretty tall stack of studies about the benefits of owning a dog.

Now there's even more of a reason to get a dog: it might help you live longer.

The researchers can't provide proof dog ownership actually causes a decrease in risk for cardiovascular disease.

The world's population can be divided into three groups: people who have a dog, people who want to get a dog and bad people.

People who owned dogs from hunting breeds like retrievers and beagles had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease - probably because they spend half their lives chasing after their beloved hounds.

In addition, the study said it's "plausible that not all members of a multiple-person household interact with the dog as much as a single owner".

For their study, researchers sifted through health data on 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80.

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Dogs could alleviate social isolation, depression and loneliness, the study said.

People living alone have the highest risk of developing a heart disease or having a stroke. When compared with single individuals without a dog, single dog owners experienced a 33% decreased risk of death.

"Other explanations include an increased wellbeing and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner".

Bond commented that owners of hunting breeds may be getting more exercise because these dogs are more active as opposed to small dogs who do not require as much exercise.

The research, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, claims to be "by far the largest investigation" into the links between dog ownership and health.

"We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results", said Tove Fall, an associate professor in epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden.

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