Dog owners tend to live slightly longer than those with or without other pets, and no definitive explanation has yet been found for this phenomenon. The sensational discovery belongs to Swedish scientists who published an article in Scientific Reports.
If you interview dog owners, many people will say that their pets influence life and mood in an extremely positive way. Four-footed companions are often adopted by lonely people and retirees to cope with longing. Families with children also feel happier in the company of a faithful dog, and toddlers learn to be caring and responsible. But are dogs able to cope with such a serious task as prolonging life? Scientists from the University of Uppsala – the oldest in Scandinavia – have checked whether this is actually the case.
Experts have collected a control group of 3.4 million Swedes aged 40-85 years, who had heart attacks or strokes in 2001 and later. Participants in the study included both dog owners and those who did not keep these animals. As it turned out, the first group had the best health indicators.
The presence of a dog in the house reduced the likelihood of premature death by 33% and reduced the likelihood of developing heart and vascular diseases by 11%. “Interestingly, dogs have been particularly beneficial in the lives of single people, who, as we have known for a long time, die more often than family people,” said Mwenya Mubanga of Uppsala University. For Swedes who lived with spouses or children, the correlation was less pronounced, but still noticeable: 15% and 12%, respectively.
The positive influence of four-footed friends is not least due to the fact that people have to walk their pets, which makes their lifestyle more active. The strength of the “life extension” effect depended on the breed of the dog. Thus, the owners of hunting breeds, on average, lived longer than the owners of decorative dogs.
In addition to the physical component, the emotions experienced by people are important. Dogs are able to reduce feelings of anxiety, help to cope with loneliness, and have empathy. “We were able to prove that dog owners experience less depression and more interaction with other people,” said Tove Fall, one of the study’s authors. Scientists also do not exclude that people live longer due to interactions with animals at the microflora level – this remains to be seen.