Happiness doesn’t necessarily accord good health, claims a new study. Interestingly, stress and misery doesn’t negatively impact wellbeing either.
Happiness has always been considered an important criterion that helped people live longer, and the claim has been documented in a variety of research studies. Most people are quick to include happiness in their definition of a good life. Similarly, it is commonly assumed unhappiness is bad for the wellbeing. But a new research in England suggests happiness neither has a beneficial or detrimental effect on health. Interestingly, the study also claims the presence or absence of happiness in life doesn’t impact longevity.
Previous research has shown happiness is associated with a range of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and disability levels. A recent study showed head and neck cancer patients with depression had worse outcomes, reported UPI. Although it has been a firm belief that happiness makes people live longer, healthier lives, a research paper published in the medical journal Lancet has concluded that happiness isn’t responsible for this observed longevity.
The research strongly indicates that it’s not the happiness but the things that make people happy that prolong life. Interestingly, aspects like good health are the key factors, which impart happiness and, in turn, are responsible for shielding people from premature death, reported Sci-Tech Today.
Speaking about the findings, lead researcher Dr. Bette Liu from the University of New South Wales in Australia said, “Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn’t make you ill. We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a ten-year study of a million women. Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality.”
Simply put, the research indicates people who are sick tend to be unhappy, hence unhappiness has a strong link to higher chances of mortality. But, this certainly does not mean that unhappiness is the direct cause of increased mortality, reported HNGN.
To find a correlation or lack thereof between happiness and a long life, the researchers examined data on 719,671 people who participated in the Million Women Study between 1996 and 2001. The average age of the women was 59. Three years into the study, researchers presented the women with questionnaires in which they were asked to rate themselves in five areas: happiness, health, feelings of being relaxed, stress, and feeling of control. The choice of answers were “Most of the time,” “Usually,” “Sometimes,” “and Rarely / Never.”
The 39 percent who answered “most of the time” and the 44 percent who answered “usually” were classified as happy people. The other 17 percent who said they were “sometimes” or “rarely/never” happy were deemed unhappy. Additionally, they were also asked to rate their health status as “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” During the duration of the study, about 4 percent (31,531 women) died.
Analysis of the responses indicated participants associated unhappiness with smoking, not living with a partner, deprivation, and lack of exercise. However, those who suffered from poor health indicated that they were stressed, unhappy, not in control, and not feeling relaxed.
Overall, the researchers observed a peculiar path breaking pattern. The study revealed there was no difference in the death rate of those who were happy and those who were unhappy. This pattern persisted even for deaths caused by cancer or heart disease. In fact, expected factors like stress and unhappiness did not significantly influence mortality rates.
Attempting to explain the same, study co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto from the University of Oxford said, “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.”
Incidentally, the researchers also tried to find if women who reported to be happy, in control, or relaxed had prolonged longevity, but they couldn’t find conclusive evidence to support the hypothesis that happiness is the elixir for long life.
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