(NaturalNews) People who are happier and more satisfied with their lives might also enjoy better health, said a study led by Mohammad Siahpush, Ph.D., professor of health promotion at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
"Everything else being equal, if you are happy and satisfied with your life now, you are more likely to be healthy in the future," said Siahpush.
And, very significantly, factors which usually also affect health, such as exercise and cigarette smoking, were already accounted for. According to Siahpush, "importantly, our results are independent of several factors that impact on health, such as smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and age".
Details of Study
The study team examined data collected from two Australian surveys conducted on nearly 10,000 adults in 2001 and 2004. In the surveys, the participants were asked about various health indicators, including their level of physical health and whether or not they had long-term, limiting health conditions.
The questions "During the past four weeks, have you been a happy person?" and "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life?" were used to assess happiness and life satisfaction respectively.
The results were satisfying and happy news. "We found strong evidence that both happiness and life satisfaction have an effect on our indicators of health," Siahpush said.
Happiness and life satisfaction, as assessed at the baseline survey, both brought about better health three years later, as indicated by three factors: excellent, good or very good health; absence of long-term and limiting health concerns; as well as better levels of overall physical health.
On top of that, the results of the study suggested the possibility that improving levels of happiness or satisfaction with life might also give rise to better health in the future. "There are indications that as you become happier and more satisfied with your life, you tend to become healthier as well," Siahpush added.
One very poignant fact of these findings is that greater happiness and life satisfaction can actually translate to better health in as short a timeframe as three years.
"Their unique contribution is the short, three-year time period of their study. To my knowledge, this the shortest time I've seen where looking at baseline happiness predicts future health. It is compelling to me that measuring someone's happiness now accounts for some differences in physical health in as little as three years," said Paul Hershberger, Ph.D., a professor at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio.
Hershberger, who had no affiliation with the study, also found it interesting that the study team was able to isolate happiness and satisfaction with life from all the other factors which were able to influence future health.
More Evidence that Happiness Improves Health
Is it any surprise at all that happier people are healthier, and also become healthier? Well, not really.
For one thing, we know that happiness gives the immune system a boost. Conversely, a person undergoing depression also suffers depressed immunity.
For example, a study carried out by Associates for Research Into the Science of Enjoyment (ARISE) in the UK some ten years ago had revealed that the amount of the antibody, secretory Immunoglobulin-A (sigA), which is found in saliva and protects against respiratory infections, doubled within a mere 20 minutes of having happy thoughts. The levels of sigA increased even more 45 minutes thereafter, and remained about 60% higher even three hours after the start of the experiment.
Conversely, recollection of guilty memories had an adverse effect on the levels of sigA.
Another study conducted a few years ago by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that people with positive emotional attitudes did not suffer colds as often as well as experienced fewer symptoms, when compared to those with negative emotional states.
The study, which interviewed 334 healthy volunteers three times a week for two weeks to get a sense of their emotional states, found that people who were happy, relaxed and energetic had a lower likelihood of being hit by a cold. On the flip side, people who were angry, depressed or nervous had a higher chance of complaining about cold symptoms, regardless of whether they actually got infected.
For years, we have heard the phrase, "don't worry, be happy". That certainly still applies. Perhaps, now, we can also add a new one –- "be happy, be healthy".