You could live longer if you had a dog

"Lots of people think that nowadays we have poor diversity in microbiomes, and it might be that dogs have a positive effect on this by bringing in dirt and bacteria", Fall said. But the physical effects are also being acknowledged more and more, as studies show the connection between having a dog and various beneficial health outcomes.

According to the study managed to establish that the dog in the family significantly reduces the risk of premature death by more than 33%, and also prevent the development of diseases of the cardiovascular system by more than 11%.

Fall and co-authors drew from a nation-wide register of more than 3.4 million Swedish adults between 40 and 80 years old for their trial.

Everything from registering a dog to visiting a hospital requires presentation of a unique identification number in Sweden, so the team from Uppsala University were able to access an anonymised set of data from national registries.

They found that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease than people who did not report owning a dog, as well as a lower risk of death from other causes.

The biggest beneficiaries are single people.

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"There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health". The estimated 1.1 million lonely Britons are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those with good social networks, making loneliness as harmful to the nation's health as diabetes.

"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", Tove Fall, a senior author of the study and a professor at Uppsala University, said in a statement.

"We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results", Fall said.

When it came to breeds, canines originally bred for hunting-like terriers, retrievers and scent hounds-were associated with a lower risk of CVD.

Wolf-Klein believes that whatever the reasons behind the health benefit shown in the study, adopting a furry companion from a nearby shelter might be just what the doctor ordered.

Even in such cases, the authors wrote, dog ownership has consistently been linked to improved survival in coronary artery disease patients. "More studies should be obtained in the United States", said Bond. Dogs can alleviate psychosocial stress, depression and loneliness, according to the study, all of which are stressors that can encourage coronary heart disease, cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality.

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