South Carolina Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Attorneys
A new research study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says happy people on average live 35% longer.
The study from USA Today found that those who reported feeling happiest had a “35% reduced risk of dying compared with those who reported feeling least happy.”
The British study consisted of 3,853 participants ages 52-79 who rated their feelings at different times on one particular day. Five years later, researchers recorded the number who passed away and controlled for a range of factors, such as age, gender, health, wealth, education and marital status.
This approach “gets closer to measuring how people actually feel” rather than relying on recollections or general questions about well-being, says epidemiologist Andrew Steptoe.
Steptoe is a psychology professor at University College in London, who co-authored the study.
How happy a person is at any point in time, he says, is a product of “some background disposition; some people tend to be happier than others,” but also “what they are doing, who they are with, and other features of that point in time. Both are important.”
“It’s perfectly true that someone’s happiness over a single day will be affected by what happens to them over that period,” Steptoe stated. “However, survey experts and psychologists have come to the view that in many ways, this is a better approach to understanding how people actually feel than asking them general questions about how happy they are. Responses to general questions are influenced strongly by personality, by what people think they ‘ought’ to say and by recollections that might not be quite accurate.”
What’s not clear, he says, is whether happy feelings play a significant role to longevity or if it’s something else that extends life.
“We can’t draw the kind of final conclusion that the happiness is leading directly to better survival,” Steptoe says.
Others who have done research in this area but have not read the study say this link between a one-day measure and mortality is important.
Laura Kubzansky, an associate professor in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health, at Harvard’s School of Public Health in Boston, says there’s a “burgeoning body of work that suggests positive psychological functioning benefits health,” and this study is significant because it “adds to the arsenal.”
“It could say to people, you should take your mood seriously,” Kubzansky says. “I think people sort of undervalue emotional life anyway. This highlights the idea that if you are going through a period where you’re consistently distressed, it’s probably worth paying attention to how you feel — it matters for both psychological and physical health.”
This study asked individuals to rate how happy, excited and content they felt at four points during a single day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and a half-hour after each.
They used a rating scale from 1 (“not at all”) to 4 (“extremely”).
“Generally, they were less happy when they woke up and most happy at 7 p.m.,” Steptoe says.
By: South Carolina Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Lawyer Pete Strom