Happier people live longer
2nd November 2011
Researchers from University College London found that older people who perceive their levels of cheerfulness to be high compared to those who are not so cheerful, are less likely to die in the next five years.
The study, which has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, worked with an extensive group of people, 3,800 in total, aged between 52 and 79 to look at the impact happiness can have on extending someone's life.
Statistically, older people who are very happy are 35 per cent less likely to die than those who are not so satisfied with life.
Lead author, professor Andrew Steptoe, said: "The happiness could be a marker of some other aspect of people's lives which is particularly important for health.
"For example, happiness is quite strongly linked to good social relationships, and maybe it is things like that that are accounting for the link between happiness and health."
In this pioneering study, the team of researchers looked at measuring people's dispositions over four points of a typical day using a system known as ecological measurement assessment to gauge their levels of happiness.
This required participants to choose one of five markers across a number of categories, which was then analysed and compared.
The authors were keen to note that the results of this study did not suggest a link between sadness and a shorter lifespan. This was examined during the study and nothing discernable was found in this area.
According to the Happiness Institute, which "exists to teach as many people as possible to be happier", positive emotions can have dramatically beneficial effects on the quality of a person's life.
Strategies suggested by the institute include optimistic thinking, healthy living and meditation and relaxation skills.
Writing in a special guest post for the Huffington Post, the author Randy Taran gave his top three tips to happiness: gratitude, connecting with others and giving.
"Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough have researched that gratitude is the 'forgotten factor' in happiness research. The benefits of expressing gratitude range from improved physical health to improved mental alertness," he wrote.
"There is an underlying longing for connection that we all share at some level. The Dalai Lama points out, 'We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others' actions.'"
With regards to 'giving', he cited a 2008 study that revealed spending money on others makes a person much happier than when they buy things for themselves.
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