If you were looking for an excuse to amble down to your local animal shelter and bring home a furry pal, you are now scientifically justified in ignoring the cat section: Swedish researchers in a massive study of 3.4 million people found that those with dogs had a significantly lower mortality rate, they write in Scientific Reports. Of particular note: "We see effects in the single households that are much stronger than in multiple-person households," says Uppsala University epidemiology professor and co-author Tove Fall, who's now has a 5-month-old puppy. "If you have a dog you neutralize the effects of living alone." Dog owners who lived alone had a 33% lower mortality rate over the course of a dozen years than single non-owners, and 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Dogs owners who also lived with other humans had a 15% lower mortality rate than their counterparts with spotless couches.
The study tracked Swedes in a national health registry, and while the results don't point to a reason why dog owners are healthier, notes the Guardian, the boost among those who live alone may be because "a dog may stand in as an important family member in single households," says lead researcher Mwenya Mubanga. "It may be that dog owners like to be outdoors more, or are more organized, or more empathic," adds Fall. The owners of hunting dogs—such as hounds, retrievers, and terriers—had the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease.