The study-with a sample size hundreds of times larger than any other studies on this topic-was not created to show a cause-and-effect relationship between dog ownership and reduced risk of death or cardiovascular disease, or to determine why these factors may be related.
Owning a pooch can reduce the risk death by a third, according to a new Swedish study.
People living alone fared the best, as owning a dog decreased their risk of death by 33 percent and their likelihood of a cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent, when compared to single individuals who do not have a pet. "It may also be that those who choose to get a dog from the beginning have lower risk of cardiovascular disease, for example, through an active lifestyle".
The findings also suggest increased social well-being and immune system development as additional reasons why dog ownership offers protection against cardiovascular disease and death.
The researchers put this down to the dogs acting as a "protective factor" - especially for people who live on their own. As a result, the researchers posit, dog owners went out more and had added more social interaction than those without dogs.
Owners of hunting breeds, including terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds, were most protected from cardiovascular disease and death. All were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study.
"The responsibilities associated with dog ownership impose mandatory daily exercise - a schedule which can not be impacted by adverse weather conditions, personal commitments or mood swings", Wolf-Klein said.
Dr Mubanga said: "Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households".
There are several possible reasons for the positive effects dogs appear to have on their owners' health, though the study did not look into this specifically.
The risk of death fell by 11 percent in households with multiple people.
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Owning a dog is associated with reduced mortality and risk of having heart disease". Their chances of cardiovascular death fell by 15 percent.
"Previous studies have shown this association but have not been as conclusive - largely due to the population size studied here". For starters, we do know that having a dog means (well, requires) a higher level of physical activity - basically acting as a furry personal trainer that ensures you get your steps in taking it on walks and refilling its food and water bowl.
Scientists can't say that getting a dog will definitely help a person live longer, but Fall believes it's not a bad idea.