Study: Happiness is Linked to Longevity

Megan Ray  |  November 9, 2011

Being happy has long been believed to be linked to better overall health, but now a scientific study has proven that happy people reduced their risk of premature death by as much as 35 percent, MSNBC reports.

Researchers from University College in London looked at nearly 4,000 people between the ages of 52 and 79. Study participants were asked to rate their feelings of happiness or anxiety on a sliding scale four times a day for five years. The scientists recorded the number of deaths over this time, and after controlling the study for factors such as age, gender, depression, disease and habits like smoking, the results showed that people who rated their feelings of happiness higher lived longer than people who had lower happiness scores.

"I was a bit surprised that the happiness effect was so strong, even among people who had chronic diseases," lead author Andrew Steptoe, a professor of epidemiology and psychology, told the news source.

Researchers note that while society often tries to give seniors assistance with healthcare and finances, perhaps happiness should be considered too.

"Maybe we should pay attention to their well-being in terms of happiness, too," Steptoe said.

AARP reports that a positive attitude may protect people from poor health later in life and may also be an antidote to stress, pain and illness, according to a paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

However, while some healthy habits like eating vegetables and not smoking can be adjusted and adopted relatively easily, many people are unsure of how to develop a bright outlook on life. According to AARP, pets, music and spending time in nature are great ways to boost a mood. In addition, volunteering and incorporating comedy into the day can help with a sunny outlook on life.

Exercise has also been proven to help with feelings of depression and improve moods overall, according to the Mayo Clinic. Physical activity likely eases feelings of depression in many ways, by releasing certain feel-good brain chemicals, reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression and increasing body temperature - which can have a calming effect on the body and mind - the news source reports. Exercise also helps people gain confidence, take their mind off worries and get more social interaction. 

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