Happiness, Satisfaction Boost Health
New Study Points to Health Benefits of Being Happy, Satisfied With Life
Aug. 28, 2008 -- If you're happy and you know it -- you are likely to be
healthier over time.
A new study of 9,981 Australians found that people who report high happiness
and life satisfaction are more likely a few years later to report good health.
The study, published in The American Journal of Health Promotion, uses
data from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey.
Researchers compared happiness and satisfaction answers that participants gave
in 2001 with their health responses in 2004.
To measure happiness, people were asked two multiple-choice questions:
"During the past four weeks, have you been a happy person?" and
"All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life?"
Three years later, health was measured in three ways: First, participants
were asked, "In general, would you say your health is excellent, very good,
good, fair, or poor?" Then they were asked. "Do you have any long-term
health conditions, impairments, or disabilities that restrict you in everyday
activities and have lasted or are likely to last six months or more?"
Finally, they were given a score card, in which they were asked to answer yes
or no to 17 health conditions, such as chronic pain or vision problems that are not
corrected by glasses.
About 63% of people said they were happy most or all of the time. More than
90% claimed life satisfaction. Those people were significantly more likely to
report good health a few years later. For example, those who were satisfied
with life were 1.6 times as likely to report excellent, very good, or good
health at follow-up.
"Everything else being equal, if you are happy and satisfied with your
life now, you are more likely to be healthy in the future. Importantly, our
results are independent of several factors that impact on health, such as smoking, physical activity, alcohol
consumption, and age," said lead author Mohammad Siahpush, PhD.
Siahpush is a professor of health promotion at the University of Nebraska
Medical Center in Omaha.
This research echoes prior studies on health and happiness that looked at
specific groups. For instance, a study on nuns in the United States found that
nuns who reported happiness, hope, and love in journals kept in their young
adult years were likely to live longer.
Authors say that happiness, like economic status, should be considered a key
health indicator. They also call for more study, including "developing and
evaluating interventions to enhance subjective well-being."