Happiness Could Add 10 Years to Your Life

It seems only common sense that happiness should be good for our physical health, but psychological research has sent mixed signals in recent years. Some studies have found it is, while others have found no effect, and some even a negative effect.

In a new article published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, Professor Ruut Veenhoven of Erasmus University offers a possible solution to this question. In reviewing 30 studies, he finds that the neutral and negative findings for the effects of happiness on health are in studies on people who were ill at the time.

In comparison, studies on people who were in good health do find a strong positive effect for happiness on health. Professor Veenhoven suggests that happiness may not have a beneficial effect on the physical health of those who are ill, but it does help prevent people falling ill in the first place.

A particularly spectacular study on nuns found that those who were happiest in early life lived 10 years longer than those who were unhappy. Another study of 660 inhabitants of Ohio found that higher levels of happiness translated, on average, into 7.5 years more life.

How to be happy

What happiness is and where it comes from are very personal, but there are some general principles starting to emerge from the area of positive psychology. Here are a few previous articles on happiness from PsyBlog:

Here are the rest of my articles on the new science of happiness.

[Image credit: eef]

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 3 September 2008

Text: © All rights reserved.

Images: Creative Commons License