Happy? You Might Live Longer – It seems that people who are happy just might live a lot longer than those who are sad. A new study has found that those in better moods were less likely to die in the short term.
The traditional way to measure a person’s happiness is to ask them about it. But over the past few decades, psychologist and epidemiologist Andrew Steptoe of University College London (UCL) says, scientists have realized that those measures aren’t reliable. It’s not clear whether they “assess how they’re actually feeling or how they remember feeling,” he says. When answering, people are more likely to count their blessings and compare their experience with the lives of others.
The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing tried to get more specific. It has followed more than 11,000 individuals age 50 and older since 2002. In 2004, about 4700 of them collected saliva samples four times in one day and, at those same times, rated how happy, excited, content, worried, anxious, and fearful they felt. The saliva samples are still awaiting analysis for stress hormones, but Steptoe and his UCL colleague Jane Wardle publish findings today on the links between mood and mortality in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Of the 924 people who reported the least positive feelings in their life, 7.3%, or 67, died within 5 years. For those with the most positive feelings and being happy, the rate fell in half, to 3.6%, or 50 of 1399 individuals. The researchers adjusted for age, sex, demographic factors such as wealth and education, signs of depression, health, and health behaviors such as smoking and physical activity. Even with those adjustments, the risk of dying in the next 5 years was still 35% lower for the happiest individuals with a longer positive lifestyle.
“The research shows that good moods are correlated with long life, but it’s not proof that happiness makes people live longer,” Steptoe says.
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