If you’re looking for reasons to be cheerful, then researchers have found one to top your list – happy people live longer.
A 30-year-long study, which as the first of its kind, found that miserable people of all ages were 14 per cent more likely to have died by the end than those with a sunny disposition.
Regardless of income, health or marital status, people who described themselves as ‘very happy’ at the study’s outset were more likely to outlive those who said they were ‘not too happy’.
The ‘not too happy’ group were also an average of six per cent more likely to have died at any given time than those who said they were merely ‘pretty happy’, the study of 30,000 adults found.
Scientists from the University of North Carolina asked men and women up to 30 years earlier questions including: ‘Taken all together, how would you say things are these days – very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?’.
The researchers then accessed death record database to see if there were any links between the answers given and the likelihood of dying in the intervening decades.
One possible explanation for happiness aiding longevity is that happier people are better able to handle stress, and have a strong network of friends.
Writing in the journal Social Science & Medicine, the team from the U.S. said: ‘Economists are concerned with economic security, criminologists with safety and violence prevention and public health advocates with unhealthy behaviour. We miss an important variable if we overlook happiness.
‘Higher incomes, crime-free neighbourhoods, and improved public health programs may provide security, safety, and reduced disease, but they do not necessarily engender happiness.
‘In addition to improving a population’s economic standard of living, access to medical care and healthy behaviour, policymakers should consider ways to make people happy, which may involve more community engagement; more city beautification projects; ways to help people manage stress and to relax; and encouraging strong, lasting, positive social ties among friends, neighbours, and families, including spouses.
‘Happiness may provide a route toward more enjoyable and longer lives.’