Get a dog, it might help you live longer, study says

Go thank your pooch, then take it for a brisk walk. Swedish research shows that dog owners are less likely to die of cardiovascular disease.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

Dear humans: You're welcome.

Dog walker in Buenos Aires

Walking the dog keeps us both healthy. Though really, who's walking who in this photo, hmm?

Getty Images

As a dog, I only actually come into contact with words on paper when I chew up your kid's homework (you thought she was lying, huh?). But the journal Scientific Reports has published a Swedish study that says dogs may help their owners live longer. I'm going to call that a lab report, because dog-breed puns are pawsome.

Researchers at Sweden's Uppsala University doggedly dug into the national registry records of 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 with no history of cardiovascular disease, and followed them for 11 years. 

They matched up their hospital records with Sweden's dog-ownership registry and learned that dog owners had a 15 percent lower risk of death caused by cardiovascular disease in that time period than non-dog owners. (Swedes are required to register their dogs, unlike Americans.) 

Those smart enough to own dogs also had a 11 percent lower risk of death from other causes (again, only during this 11-year period -- even the best dog can't make you immortal).

If you live alone, even better news -- single people who lived with a dog showed a 36 percent lower risk of cardiovascular related death, and a 33 percent lower risk of death from other causes. (The study points out that this may be because they can't make their spouse, kid or roommate handle half the walks.)

I'm going to translate that as: The next time I scratch longingly at the door for walkies, take me out. The life you save could be your own.

The authors admit that dog owners may just be more active and healthy to begin with, part of why they commit to a pet who demands multiple daily walks, as opposed to, say, a cat that just lazes around the house and poops in a box. NOT JUDGING.

"We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results," said Tove Fall, senior author of the study. "Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner."

Bacterial microwho? That last bit is referring to microorganisms in one's body, and I might be changing yours, in a good way. "It's thought a dog may influence its owner's microbiomes as dogs change the dirt in home environments, exposing people to bacteria they may not have encountered otherwise," the BBC points out.

Now that you know all this, can we go for a walk, canwe, canwe, huh, huh, canwe? 

Really though, don't thank me. It's the leashed I could do.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.

Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility.