If you’re flying solo, sharing your home with a dog may add a few years onto your life, a new study suggests.
For the study, which was published today in Scientific Reports, Swedish scientists examined data across 12 years of 3.4 million individuals ages 40 to 80 using a government-issued personal identification number (similar to social security numbers). Taking data from the Swedish Board of Agriculture, where all dog owners have been required to register their pets since 2001, and the Swedish Kennel Club, the authors were able to determine if individuals owned a dog and what breed they owned.
Although mortality rates were reduced for the entire dog-owning study population during the 12 years the authors examined, single folks seemed to benefit the most. The authors found that individuals who lived alone were 33 percent less likely to die during the study than people without dogs, and single dog owners were 36 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
The study authors suggest the reason for the reduced mortality is that dog owners are less likely to suffer from isolation, depression and loneliness than those without dogs. “These factors have been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality,” the authors wrote. There are physical benefits, too: The authors noted that dog owners are likely to be active and spend time outside, and that single dog owners walked their dogs more often than married dog owners.
The data also revealed that owners of hunting breeds received the most cardiovascular benefit.
More Americans are living alone today than ever before—28 percent reported they resided in a one-person household in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is up from 17 percent in 1970.
For single individuals hoping to meet someone special, a canine companion may help with that, too. Two previous studies found that both men and women find dog owners more attractive than those without pets, and that people who owned pets had better connections to their relationships.