Do you really need to be happy to live a longer life? According to a new study, the answer is no.
A study now published in Lancet shows that unhappiness is associated with a marked increase in poor health and mortality. However, happiness doesn't change the outcome either.
University of South Wales epidemiologist Bette Liu and colleagues used the data collected from UK's Million Women Study for this research. At least 700,000 women participated in the study between 1996 and 2001. During this period, they answered questionnaires that pertained to their state of health, activity, lifestyle, and, of course, level of happiness. More than 10 years after the study, the group then made a follow-up to determine how many women have already died and the causes of these deaths.
The results suggested that around 30,000 of the women or 4% of them died within a decade. Compared to happy people (or those who answered usually or most of the time in the questionnaires), those who believed they were unhappy (whose answers to the questionnaire might have been sometimes or rarely/never) were almost 30% likely to die if their age was considered.
However, the researchers discovered an interesting perspective: these unhappy people also had poor health to begin with. Thus, when their health status was considered, the difference to between happiness and unhappiness among the participants is almost missing. In fact, there's hardly any change in mortality even if other factors such as level of physical activity, sleeping habits, and relationships.
The rate of dying between happy and unhappy people wasn't also dissimilar for those who died of illnesses such as cancer, as well as women who reported they were less stressed and were in excellent health.
This doesn't mean, though, you should stop pursuing happiness. In a Harvard study, negative emotions can be harmful to the body, increasing stress and even the risk of developing serious diseases like diabetes and stroke.