The scientific community has found that lots of things can extend your life: calorie restrictive diets, regular exercise and meditation, quitting smoking, and drinking in moderation among them. But none of those things are as fun as the latest discovery in human longevity: owning a dog, researchers have found, will add years to your lifespan.
A study published Friday in Scientific Reports found that having a four-legged friend decreases risk for both death and cardiovascular disease. People who live alone with their dogs see their risk for death decrease by about 33%, and their chances of dying from a cardiovascular disease goes down by 36%. The risk for a heart attack decreased 11% among the single population. (People in multi-person households see different degrees of impact: an 11% decrease in risk of death, a 15% decrease in risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and no change in risk of having a heart attack.)
The study—conducted over 12 years by researchers at Uppsala University, which is basically Sweden’s Harvard—analyzed 3.4 million Swedish people between the ages of 40 and 80, and found that in particular people who own hunting breeds got the most health benefits from owning a dog. But owning any kind of dog still provides some protection against these risk factors.
“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 and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at Uppsala University, in an interview with CNN.
And while it’s important to note the results aren’t causal (no one with a heart condition was included in this study, for example), it’s the latest in a pretty tall stack of studies about the benefits of owning a dog. And if the findings that they improve mental health, decrease stress, and can even help kids avoid developing asthma weren’t reason enough to get a pooch, keeping your ticker ticking longer makes it even more compelling.