Over 160 human and animal subjects were studied, leading to undisputable and clear evidence that – given the same circumstances and living conditions – people who are happy live a longer and much healthier life as compared to their peers who are unhappy.
The journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being contain this study which, so far, most comprehensively reviews evidence, which links happiness and health outcomes. Ed Diener, who is University of Illinois’s professor emeritus of psychology as well as a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization, of Princeton, N.J is the lead author of this study. Topics of his analysis included long-term studies of human subjects, experimental trials on humans and animals, and evaluation of the effects of stress caused by natural events on the health of people.
Diener informed that eight different types of studies were reviewed, which led to the general conclusion that a person’s subjective well-being – which implies he has a positive feel about his life without any stress or depression – plays an important part in a healthy set of people leading a longer and healthier life.
Eg: A study conducted on around 5000 university students for more than 40 years indicated that the most pessimistic students died at a younger age than their peers. Yet another much longer study conducted on 180 Catholic nuns from early adulthood to old age indicated that those who positively penned their autobiographies when in their early 20s lived much longer than those who were negative about their experiences when young.
Barring a few exceptions, most of the long-term studies that was reviewed by the researchers indicated that being anxious, depressed, unable to enjoy daily activities and being pessimistic all go hand-in-hand with a shorter life and higher rates of diseases.
Studies conducted on animals also establish a strongly link poor health and stress. Animals equally cared for but experiencing different stress levels (which could result from having a large number of nest mates in their cages, for instance) have been found to be more susceptible to heart diseases, weaker immune systems and exhibit a tendency to have a shorter life than those who lived in spacious cages.
Laboratory trials on humans have indicated that maintaining a positive mood result in reduced stress–related hormones, increased immune functions and speedy improvement of our heart after exertion. Few other studies indicate that hostile married couples with marital conflicts experienced slow healing of the wounds and even poorer immune response.
Diener said that the consistency of the data both shocked and surprised him, with all studies concluding that our mood states influence our health as well as longevity.
Happiness, by itself, might not help in preventing or curing a disease, however, the fact that positive emotions and enjoyment of life play a significant part in having a healthier and longer lifespan is stronger than the link between being obese and having a shorter lifespan, Diener said.
He also said that while happiness is no magic bullet, there is clear and compelling evidence that it surely brings lesser diseases and increased longevity with it. He said that there were a few studies which resulted in opposite effects but majority of them confirmed the association of happiness with health and longevity. It is about time that we added ‘be happy and avoid chronic anger and depression’ to the list of current recommendations for good health: try to prevent obesity, do eat right, and avoid smoke, and do carry out lots of exercise.
Source: Science Daily