If you are miserable, now you have something to be happy about. According to a British study, unhappiness alone probably will not kill you.
There is no perfect way to measure happiness, the authors of the study noted. But unhappiness might lead people to do unhealthy things such as drink too much or exercise too little, they speculate.
Researchers at the University of Oxford explored the connection between unhappiness and mortality by studying than 700,000 middle-aged women over more than a decade starting when the women were around 59 years old. At the start, 39% said they were happy most of the time, and another 43% said they were usually happy. Seventeen percent said they were usually or almost always unhappy; this response occurred more often in women who were in poor health. The women completed questionnaires every few years asking about social and demographic factors, lifestyle choices, and health.
Over the next 10 years, about 31,500 of the women (about 4%) died. After the researchers adjusted for factors known to be linked to mortality, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, drinking, depression, and anxiety, they found that simple unhappiness was not associated with increased mortality from all causes, or with deaths from cancer or heart disease.
Generally, the happy women in the study were older, less likely to have advanced degrees, and more likely to be nonsmokers and exercise regularly. They were also more likely to be in a steady romantic relationship and to routinely participate in religious or other group activities.
In contrast, the unhappy women were more likely to report only fair or poor general health and to be in treatment for depression or anxiety, the study found. Women were 20% more likely to die if they reported being in fair or poor health. "Previous reports of reduced mortality associated with happiness could be due to the increased mortality of people who are unhappy because of their poor health," the study concluded.
You can read the study here.