It will come as no surprise that people who are happy and more positive enjoy life more, but according to a review of over 100 studies by scientists from the University of Illinois, it turns out that those same people actually live longer than their grumpier, less content peers. A recent article by Andrew Hough in The Telegraph — Happiness ‘helps you live longer,’ review of 160 studies concludes — explores new evidence that happiness plays a key role in long-term health and, well, just living long term.
An upbeat outlook was determined to be an even bigger factor in longevity than obesity, and it was also found to be a key factor in reducing stress-related (and lifespan-reducing) hormones, improving immune function, and reducing exercise recovery time. On the other hand, people who are more pessimistic, angry and depressed are more likely to have higher rates of disease, more likely to live in stressful environments and more likely to die prematurely. According to Professor Ed Diener, who led the study: “The general conclusion from each type of study is that your subjective wellbeing, that is, feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed, contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations.” Diener suggests that we should add being happy and avoiding anger and depression to the list of life-prolonging factors, which already includes obesity, smoking, eating habits and exercise.
It makes sense that people who already live in better conditions — who don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, who are surrounded by a dependable support system, and who are in good health — are more likely to be happy and more positive. But happiness and positivity can also very much affect the choices we make — usually for the better. If you’re loving life and optimistic about your prospects for the future, you’re probably less likely to engage in self-destructive behaviours (like smoking, excessive drinking, overeating and giving up on exercise) that can contribute to a shorter lifespan. So maybe the trick is to focus on the good things, believe the bad things can be made better, and keep going to yoga.