"This could be because if you're the sole pet owner, you get more physical activity, and it could also show that dogs help alleviate stress from loneliness". Their overall risk of death dropped 33 percent and their risk of cardiovascular-related death fell by 36 percent compared to single individuals who did not own a pet. Little Fido also gives you some much-needed social interaction if you live alone.
The heart-health benefits of being a dog parent were especially pronounced among people living alone (in this case, meaning without other humans), which, according to the study's authors, is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living with other people.
For their study, published in Scientific Reports, the team looked at data from 2001 to 2012.
"It may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events", said Dr. Rachel Bond, Associate Director of Women's Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved in the research. The impact was greatest for single people, said Mwenya Mubanga, an author of the paper from the university's Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory.
The risk of death fell by 11 percent in households with multiple people.
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They were a third less likely to die during the study period.
Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have posited the theory that this is due to the fact that dogs have the ability to change their owner's bacterial microbiome by exposing them to bacteria they had not yet encountered. "In warmer climates, they could keep them in the yard and won't have to actively take them for a walk", said Fall.
Cardiovascular disease causes more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all deaths in the United Kingdom 160,000 each year. Other studies have found that living alone leads to increased risk of heart disease.
Experts in the United States agreed that the findings made sense.
But Fall does not believe that getting more exercise explains all, or even most, of the health effects that come with dog ownership.
"Dog owners in particular tend to be a little more extroverted, or outgoing" Kay Joubert, Director Companion Animal Services at PAWS, told The Huffington Post.