Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease or to other causes during the 12-year follow-up.

A total of more than 3.4 million individuals without any prior in 2001 were included in the researchers' study linking together seven different national data sources, including two registers. The results are being published for the first time in Scientific Reports. The goal was to determine whether dog owners had a different risk of cardiovascular and death than non-dog owners.

"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. Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households. The results showed that single dog owners had a 33 percent reduction in risk of death and 11 percent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease during follow-up compared to single non-owners. Another interesting finding was that owners to dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected," says Mwenya Mubanga, lead junior author of the study and PhD student at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

In Sweden, every person carries a unique personal identity number. Every visit to a hospital is recorded in national databases, accessible to researchers after de-identification of data. Even dog ownership registration has been mandatory in Sweden since 2001. These scientists studied whether being registered as a dog-owner was associated with later diagnosis of cardiovascular disease or from any cause.

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how could protect from cardiovascular disease. We know that 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," says Tove Fall, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

"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. Thanks to the population-based design, our results are generalisable to the Swedish population, and probably also to other European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership," says Tove Fall.

Explore further: Early contact with dogs linked to lower risk of asthma

More information: Mwenya Mubanga et al, Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death – a nationwide cohort study, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-16118-6

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9 comments

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msadesign
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2017
Dogs (and cats) are not subject to 'ownership'. We are caretakers, and should be grateful they allow it.
physman
5 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2017
OR older people (i.e. people less likely to die of cardiovascualar disease at a younger age) are more likely to get dogs
avandesande2000
5 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2017
Dogs (and cats) are not subject to 'ownership'. We are caretakers, and should be grateful they allow it.


My dog thinks I'm her human :)
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2017
Pets are surrogates for children. As tropical animals we are used to conceiving throughout life. Menopause may have developed to enable aging mothers to avoid that final pregnancy which would kill them, and thus remain as live to ensure that their last children would survive to reproduce.

But we are used to being surrounded by offspring throughout our lives. Throughout the Pleistocene we lived in extended families in dense village settings with a lively and nurturing mix of multiple generations, each watching the other grow and interact.

Western society is no longer structured this way. Couples produce 1 or 2 children who spend much of their time in school while their parents work. And when they are grown and leave the nest we are faced with decades of existence with their absence.

Children also grow without the interaction of many siblings of various ages, observing how they deal with learning through experience and shared knowledge.
Cont>
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2017
We've used pets to fill these gaps. We've selected them for their childlike and sibling-like behaviors. We give them names, talk to them, care for them, teach them, play with them, and mourn them when they die just like we would our children, our brothers, our sisters.

Society has had to adjust to reduce the ruinous results of chronic overpopulation. Humans traditionally bore many children because half or more would die before reaching maturity. And as we became able to ensure the survival of more and more of them, we had to face the grim reality that we had no hope of feeding them all.

Pets - surrogate children - are just another symptom of chronic overgrowth and one of the many means both biological and cultural we have had to resort to to compensate for it.
Eikka
not rated yet Nov 20, 2017
Every visit to a hospital is recorded in national databases, accessible to researchers after de-identification of data. Even dog ownership registration has been mandatory in Sweden since 2001. These scientists studied whether being registered as a dog-owner was associated with later diagnosis of cardiovascular disease or death from any cause.


That's actually very alarming. The de-identification of data should make it impossible to connect the two registries together, because otherwise you could then de-de-identify the data afterwards by comparison and figure out anyone's personal data.

In other words, your SSN gets recorded in two different registries, and if the number is scrambled the same way in both, it becomes possible to correlate who's who by asking 20 questions by narrowing out the scope of each database and seeing what IDs pop up.

That's a massive breach of privacy and basically allows anyone with access to the "anonymized" data to stalk you and harm you.
Eikka
not rated yet Nov 20, 2017
Pets - surrogate children - are just another symptom of chronic overgrowth and one of the many means both biological and cultural we have had to resort to to compensate for it.


How do you explain people having pets all the way back to prehistory, when the population wasn't overflowing?

Yours is a nice story, but it's conjecture. It seems to be simply serving your purpose of explaining everything as being a point in a grand plan.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Nov 21, 2017
How do you explain people having pets all the way back to prehistory, when the population wasn't overflowing?
wolves and cats were originally domesticated to do work - catch mice, tend sheep, protect the camp, fight alongside warriors.

How do you explain their popularity now that they have little work to do besides barking at neighbors?
postfuture
not rated yet Nov 22, 2017
it is so simple - even a little exercise like a short walk with your dog every day is good for your health! and tv, computer games, facebook, etc. are not!

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