Owning a dog might be good for your health, especially if you're single

A massive scientific study shows having a dog could mean you have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, the world's leading cause of death.

That's good news for dog lovers, especially if they fit into the 30 million Americans who found out this week they have hypertension after federal guidelines changed. 

The research, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, claims to be "by far the largest investigation" into the links between dog ownership and health. The researchers used data from nearly 3.5 million Swedish people between the ages of 40 and 80 to compile their findings.

"Dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in single households and with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death in the general population," the study said.

Reading between the lines: That's good news for single people with dogs. Single dog owners showed a 33% decrease in risk of death compared to single people who did not own a dog, said a statement by lead junior author of the study Mwenya Mubanga, a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University.

People living alone have been reported to be more at risk of cardiovascular disease or death, Mubanga said. 

"Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households," Mubanga said.

The researchers can't provide proof dog ownership actually causes a decrease in risk for cardiovascular disease. Other factors might come into play.

Dogs could alleviate social isolation, depression and loneliness, the study said. Dog owners also tend to spend more time outdoors and get more physical activity.  

Single dog owners usually walk their dog more than those in households with multiple people. In addition, the study said it's "plausible that not all members of a multiple-person household interact with the dog as much as a single owner."

Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman

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