Here’s Why Dogs Can Help You Live Longer—especially If You’re Single

Man kissing beagle
 Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Getty Images

Puppies, dogs, mutts, purebreds—we love ’em all. If you’re an owner, you know running with your furry friend, and even working out with him, can help you exercise more.

Don’t have a dog? Consider adopting one, because people with dogs have healthier hearts, according to new research published in Scientific Reports.

In the study, researchers analyzed the correlation between dog ownership and heart health. The sample size was huge: 3.4 million adults ages 40 to 80 living in Sweden over a 12-year period. Why Sweden? Simple: Sweden requires citizens to register their pets under the Board of Agriculture, so the researchers had a ready-made database of families with dogs.

As dog-lovers out there might expect, men and women who welcomed pooches into their respective families were 11% less likely to have heart disease. In fact, dog people were also 33% more likely to live longer.

The reason? Pups provide social and emotional support, keep you active, and even change your body’s microbiome like a probiotic. As your French bulldog would like to remind you, dogs carry around new bacteria that can help (though sometimes hurt) your health and mood. For example: Kids who grow up in households with dogs and other pets have a lower risk of asthma and allergies because their bodies are introduced to foreign bacteria and substances at an earlier age, research has shown.

It’s not just families with kids, either. “Dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor for people living alone,” lead study author Mwenya Mubanga said in a press release. That’s key, because people who live alone are “at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household”.

Certain breeds can influence the stats, too. Researchers found terriers, retrievers, and scent hounds—pups bred for hunting—were linked with the lowest risk of heart disease.

“Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households,” Mubanga said. We certainly think so. So does your French bulldog.