Happiness doesn’t build you live longer, survey discovers

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But on the upside, stress-related suffering doesnt kill you faster either, tell researchers on the UK Million Women study

Happiness does not stimulate you live longer and stress-related suffering will not shorten your life, according to a major new study.

Many people believe that unhappiness, caused by working conditions, stressful relationships or general frustration with ones plenty, is likely to be life-shortening. Some analyzes have in the past appeared to support that hypothesi. But, according to Oxford University researchers, they have generally not allowed for the unhappiness caused by poor health.

A study of only under 1 million women in the UK around the age of 60, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that it was true poor health attained people unhappy. It is also true that poor health attained people live shorter lives. But it is not true, “theyre saying”, that unhappiness was life-shortening of itself.

Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesnt stimulate you ill, told Dr Bette Liu , now at the University of New South Wales in Australia. We received no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a 10 -year study of a million women.

The paper is part of the UK Million Women analyse, which has also investigated the causes of breast and ovarian cancers. The women, recruited through the breast screening programme between 1996 and 2001, filled in questionnaires about many aspects of their lives and health, including their happiness, and are still being followed up today.

Co-author Prof Sir Richard Peto, of the University of Oxford, told: The assert that this[ unhappiness] is an important cause of mortality is just nonsense. Compare it with light smoking, where, if you smoke five to 10 a day, you are twice as likely to die in middle age.

Unhappiness may stimulate people behave in an unhealthy route, such as eating or drinking too much or harming themselves. But if you ask does it of itself have any direct effect on mortality, it doesnt, he said.

The current paper focuses on the answers of more than 700,000 of the women who were asked to rate their own health, happiness, stress, feelings of control and whether they felt relaxed. Five out of six said they were generally happy almost half( 44%) said they were usually happy and 39% said they were happy the majority of members of the time but 17% said they were unhappy. Random repetition of the questionnaire a year later to some of the sample proved their happiness levels changed little.

Those who said at the beginning that their own health was poor were very likely also to say they were unhappy, the study discoveries. During the 10 years of follow-up, more than 31,000 of the participants succumbed( 4 %). But the death rates among the unhappy were no higher than among those who said they were usually happy.

To come to that conclusion, the researchers adjusted for a number of things, including a womans poor rating of her own health and also any therapy for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, depression or anxiety. They also adjusted for several sociodemographic and lifestyle factors that are known to be potentially life-shortening, including smoking, deprivation and obesity.

Poor health and adverse lifestyle choices( such as smoking) may abbreviate lives, say the authors, but after allowing for those things, our large prospective analyse proves no robust evidence that happiness itself reduces cardiac, cancer or overall mortality.

They accept there is no perfect route to measure happiness, but factors associated by the women in the study with happiness are very similar to what was may be in other research. Women were more likely to feel happy unless they are older, less deprived, physically active, did not smoking, had a partner, belonged to a religious group or participated in social activities and had adequate sleep( but not too much ).

Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can immediately cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect, told Peto. Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the UK Million Women analyse shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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