Happiness Keeps the Doctor Away

Keep humming “Don’t Worry Be Happy“. The 1980s New Age-inspired hit got it right. New research shows being happy can add years to life.

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“Happiness does not heal, but happiness protects against falling ill,” says Ruut Veenhoven of Rotterdam‘s Erasmus University in a study to be published next month.

After reviewing 30 studies carried out worldwide over periods ranging from one to 60 years, the Dutch professor said the effects of happiness on longevity were “comparable to that of smoking or not”. That special flair for feeling good, he said, could lengthen life by between 7.5 and 10 years.

The finding brings a vital new piece to a puzzle currently being assembled by researchers worldwide on just what makes us happy – and on the related question of why people blessed with material wealth in developed nations no longer seem satisfied with their lives.

Once the province of poets or philosophers, the notions of happiness and satisfaction have been taken on and dissected, quantified and analysed in the last few years by a growing number of highly serious and respected economists – some of whom dub the new field “hedonics”, or the study of what makes life pleasant, or otherwise.

In Veenhoven’s findings, the strongest effect on longevity was found among a group of US nuns followed through their adult life – perhaps reflecting the feel-good factor from belonging to a close-knit stress-free community with a sense of purpose.

In his paper, Veenhoven first looked at statistics to see whether good cheer impacted on the sick, but concluded that while happiness had helped some cancer patients suffering from a relapse, in general “happiness does not appear to prolong the deathbed”.

Among healthy populations, on the contrary, happiness appeared to protect against falling ill, thus prolonging life. Happy people were more inclined to watch their weight, were more perceptive of symptoms of illness, tended to be more moderate with smoking and drinking and generally lived healthier lives.

They were also more active, more open to the world, more self-confident, made better choices and built more social networks.

Sources: The Times Of India

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