We all know dogs are extremely good, but a new study suggests they’re so good, even better than we thought was scientifically possible. Research collected from a Swedish database tracking millions of its citizens reports a link between lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease and dog ownership.
Dog researchers and owners confirm to Inverse that indeed dogs are the secret to health and happiness, because of course they are.
Anecdotally speaking, everyone knows dogs — pups, pupperinos, etc. — are the essential to overall wellbeing. But Swedish scientists confirmed this by analyzing hospital records from its citizens — since everyone in the country has an identification number, researchers were able to track both dog registration and hospital visits for millions of people.
Their research was published Friday in Scientific Reports.
“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,” the study’s lead junior author Mwenya Mubanga, a Ph.D. student at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University, said in a statement.
While there might be a connection between improved cardiovascular health and dog ownership, it’s unclear exactly why. The researchers think it might be because dog owners exercise more from walking and playing with their pooches.
“Owning a dog has many positive effects that could improve cardiovascular problems,” Matthew Cobb, a zoology professor at the University of Manchester unaffiliated with this research tells Inverse. “Walking the animal encourages people to take exercise, but there are also more subtle effects on mental health, which can also affect blood pressure and other aspects of cardiovascular disease. Walking the dog can help isolated people socialize, and caring for the animal can encourage people to look after themselves. Finally, simply being with a dog (and this is true for cats, too!) can lower blood pressure and increase wellbeing.”
“Other people’s dogs were a big help when I was first getting sober,” Claire Beaudreault, a writer and performer in Queens, New York, tells Inverse. “Seeing dogs at 12-step meetings gave me something to focus on other than how uncomfortable I was. Also, I am deathly phobic of flying and when I bring [my dog] on the plane she acts as a furry Xanax and calms me down. Petting her slows my heart rate and gives me something to focus on.”
The researchers from this most recent study hope their findings will “increase the acceptance of dogs as an important part of our society,” one of the study’s co-authors, Tove Fall, tells Inverse.
“We have been co-evolving with dogs for at least 15,000 years and probably longer, and it seems like we also get healthier by staying around them,” she says.
Still, the ultimate question remains: Are all dogs good boys and girls? Will we ever have hard scientific evidence to back this claim?
“Regarding the ‘all dogs are good boys and girls’ — we do not have that expression in Swedish, and I am not entirely sure what is meant,” Fall says. “I Googled it and understood it as all dogs are born good? And in that case I would agree — that most problems that we have with dogs are man-made.”
**If you liked this article, check out this video of Boston Dynamic’s newest robot helper dog.