Study looks at happiness as it is related to health issues.
“Good news for the grumpy.” That’s how one researcher put it as the findings of a new study contradicts the long-held view that happy people live longer lives than those who are less happy.
Sir Richard Peto, an author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford made the comment, saying that was one way to view the findings of the study, cited in an article on nytimes.com.
Peto and his fellow researchers looked at data collected from around 1 million women in Britain for the last 10 years, because they wondered if the axiom of leading a stress-free life actually led to longevity.
The team was concerned that believing things that were not true could lead people to blame sick people for bringing the diseases on themselves by being constantly negative, and could lead to warnings for people to cheer up or else.
They drew their information from a study known as the Million Women Study, which tracked answers from questionnaires given to women aged 50 to 69 over a period of time from 1996 to 2001. The questionnaires asked the women questions like how often did they feel happy, or in control, and inversely, did they feel stressed, and also asked them to record their aliments, including high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, or anxiety.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that there was no association with unhappiness and stress, to an increased risk of death. Since the study only involved women, it is not clear if the same applies to men.
Noting an important part of the study, Peto said 500,000 women reported they were in good health, lacking a history of heart disease, cancer, stroke or emphysema. A “substantial minority” of those women reported they were unhappy or stressed, but the survey found they were no more likely to die over the next 10 years than their happier counterparts.
The team warns, however, that even if unhappiness is not a direct cause of illness and death, it can lead to other issues, including alcoholism, suicide or other types of dangerous behaviors.
Professor Peto said he doubted the results of the findings would change anyone’s mind about happiness leading to good health, adding people are still going to believe that stress can cause a heart attack.
The results of the study were published in The Lancet this week.