Posted on Nov 18, 2011, 6 a.m.
British study finds that older adults who report feeling happy and content live longer than others.
A British study finds that older adults who report feeling happy and content live longer than others, but researchers warn their data does not mean that happiness leads to longer life. Andrew Steptoe, from the University College London (United Kingdom), and colleagues monitored "positive affect" (states such as happiness, peacefulness and excitedness), and "negative affect" (anxiety and hostility, for example), among 3,850 people, ages 52 to 79 years, who were asked to describe their feelings -- happy, excited, content, worried, anxious or fearful -- four times during one 24-hour period. Then, the team tracked the participants for the next five years, and found that over 7% of those who died were in the lowest third of those with positive affect, as compared to 6% in the third with the highest level of positive affect. Even after ruling out confounding factors, the researchers found that those who said they were the most happy were 35% less likely to die than those who described themselves as the least happy. The study authors conclude that: “The results endorse the value of assessing experienced affect, and the importance of evaluating interventions that promote happiness in older populations.”
Steptoe A, Wardle J. “Positive affect measured using ecological momentary assessment and survival in older men and women.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011 Oct 31.