The Longevity Question – New Study Says ‘Happiness’ Not Linked To Longer Lifespan

Many are convinced that unhappiness resulting from stress, anxiety, or general dissatisfaction has a negative bearing on human lifespans. However, a new study by researchers in UK has disclosed there is no scientific evidence to support such a notion. Despite a multitude of studies favoring the opposite conclusion, according to Oxford University researchers, happiness does not necessarily lead to longer lifespans, and stress-related unhappiness does not necessarily lessen human lives.

The data for the study was originally generated in the 90’s from nearly 700,000 women participants between the ages of 50 and 69, but excluded women who had already had cancer, heart disease, strokes, or chronic obstructive-airway disease. The objective of the study was to essentially determine whether unhappiness alone could contribute to shortened human lifespans.

During the survey, participants were asked to describe their own perceived levels of happiness, health, stress, feelings of satisfaction, and comfort. Findings revealed that Five out of six described themselves as generally happy, nearly half thought they were frequently happy, with almost 40 percent stating they were mostly happy. However, 17 percent believed they were unhappy. According to the study, over the following 10 years, follow-up assessments revealed that more than 30,000 (four percent) of the participants had passed away. But the death rates among those who had described themselves as unhappy were no higher than among those who believed they were leading joyous lives.

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According to Richard Peto, a co-author on the study and a professor of medical statistics at Oxford University, despite the lack of scientific relevance, the pursuit of happiness is nonetheless worthwhile, even if it doesn’t enhance human lifespan.

“Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can directly cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect. Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the UK Million Women study shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates. It’s such a common belief that stress and unhappiness causes death and disease but it’s actually the other way around. People should focus on the real issues that shorten their lives, like smoking and obesity.”

Experts concluded that women were more likely to feel happy if they were older, less dispossessed, physically agile, non-smokers, had families, affiliated with a social or religious group, and generally slept well.

However, an earlier study published the Journal of Happiness Studies resoundingly challenges this notion. According to its conclusions, happiness does not heal but it does tend to reduce the prospect of otherwise impending illnesses. As a consequence, happy people tend to experience prolonged as well as much more gratifying life spans. Furthermore, the view that happiness contributes to healthier life style choices has also carried a lot of weight and been supported by many similar previous studies.

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Another recent study however does suggest that happiness in older people may indeed lead to a longer life. It revealed that older people were up to 35 percent less likely to die during the five-year study if they reported feeling happy, excited, and content on an ordinary day. However, previous statistics on happiness and longevity have essentially relied on the participants’ own recollection of their past experiences that may be characterized as happy. Such recollections need not necessarily be accurate. The researchers argue that efforts should be made to promote happiness in older people, namely medical, economic, and social interventions that guarantee adequate health care, financial well-being and social support.

The recent study has claimed that previously conducted research linking happiness to longevity has not convincingly established whether any plausible scientific relationship does exists between the two.

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