Although there is a well-established body of research examining negative health effects of stress and we even wrote an article about stress busters here, there are also key studies that look at associations between health and happiness. It’s important to note that these studies focus on correlations, things that go hand in hand but are not necessarily caused by one another.
A vast scientific literature has detailed how negative emotions harm the body. Serious, sustained stress or fear can alter biological systems in a way that, over time, adds up to “wear and tear” and, eventually, illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Chronic anger and anxiety can disrupt cardiac function by changing the heart’s electrical stability, hastening atherosclerosis, and increasing systemic inflammation.
Here are some ways Voltaire was entirely correct where he said: “I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.”
- In studies, happiness has been correlated with better health, both in individuals and communities.
- Happy people recover more quickly from surgery, cope better with pain, have lower blood pressure, and have longer life expectancy than unhappy people.
- In a study done in England, happy people were better at looking after their health. The study found that when people’s happiness levels improve, so do their health behaviors. They exercise more, wear sunscreen, and go for regular checkups.
- Some studies have even suggested that states of happiness may be associated with lower stress-related hormones and better immune function.
- In a 2007 study that followed more than 6,000 men and women aged 25 to 74 for 20 years, found that emotional vitality—a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance—appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Women in a Happy Heart Study at Massachusetts General Hospital became happy and content while improving heart risk.
- A study published by Harvard stated that optimism cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by half.
- Data show that positive mood, optimism and humor are linked to better health and well-being.
- Having a happy friend or family member who lives within a mile of you appears to increase the probability, up to 15% in one study, that you will be happy, too.
- Being social is a key to happiness and health! Spending quality time with good friends is one of the key components of a happy life. In 1979, Harvard co-authored a seminal study of nearly 7,000 adults in Alameda County, California. Participants who reported fewer social ties at the beginning of the survey were more than twice as likely to die over the nine-year follow-up period, an effect unrelated to behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and physical activity.
To read Health Fitness Revolution’s Top 10 Tips to Stress Less this Week, click here.