Owning a dog is associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and death, a study claims.
Scientists looked at over 3.4 million individuals aged between 40 and 80 years to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health during the 12-year follow-up.
The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 per cent reduction in risk of death and 11 per cent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease compared to single non-owners, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
"A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household," said Mwenya Mubanga, from the Uppsala University in Sweden.
"Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected," Mubanga said.
The study suggested that higher level of physical activity and increased well-being are some of the reasons why dog owners have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease.
"We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results. Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner," said Tove Fall, from the Uppsala University.