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Happiness Helps Ward off Disease


Study: Happiness proves protective against the detriments of unhealthy habits.

While it makes intuitive sense that happier people are healthier people, a recent study in the American Journal of Health Promotion proves the point.

The study’s lead author, Mohammad Siahpush, Ph.D. is a professor of health promotion at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Siahpush examined data collected during two waves of an ongoing investigation conducted by the University of Melbourne named the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.

In 2001, HILDA researchers surveyed 9981 adults asking questions concerning health, happiness and life satisfaction. The surveyors gauged respondents’ health status by inquiring into any existing long-term, limiting health conditions as well as general physical health. Happiness was assessed by asking: “During the past four weeks, have you been a happy person?” Life satisfaction was measured with the question: “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life?”

Three years later in 2004, the respondents were again contacted and asked the same set of questions. Siahpush and his team poured through the survey data and concluded there is strong evidence that both happiness and life satisfaction effects health. Respondents who were the most happy and satisfied at baseline were also the healthiest three years later. These findings held true when adjusted for factors including alcohol consumption, exercise, age and smoking. The results suggest that happiness is protective against the detrimental effects of unhealthy habits as well as chronological aging.

In addition, the researchers reported that respondents with health problems at baseline who became happier during the three year window of the study also became healthier. According to Siahpush, “improving happiness now may result in better health in the future.”

Happiness Shown to Reduce Heart Disease Risk

A separate group of researchers publishing in the European Heart Journal followed 1,739 adults for 10 years to assess the risk of heart disease in relation to how each participant scored on a happiness scale. The scale was numbered one to five and served as an analog for “positive affect” defined as the experience of joy, happiness, enthusiasm and contentment.

The results were dramatic. Every upward move on the scale represented a 22% reduced risk in developing heart disease. In other words, a participant scoring a “two” had a 22% reduced risk compared to someone scoring a “one.” Individuals scoring a “five” enjoyed an 88% reduction in heart disease risk.

Improving Happiness Now

The ambition to live a healthier life is linked to the ability to lead a happy life. However happiness is notoriously difficult to achieve and maintain. A new wave of neuroscience explains that the brain evolved a “negativity bias” making bad experiences stick like glue while happy ones slide off like Teflon. But take heart! The Y55 Happiness Trainer is here!

The Y55 Happiness Trainer is a mobile application anyone will be able to download for free. Based on scientific principles and decades of happiness research, the application delivers games and activities proven to overcome the negativity bias. But the Y55 developers need your help to complete the programming. Help Y55 bring happiness to the world by visiting the crowdfunding site and show your support!

photo credit: . SantiMB . via photopin cc

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  • Pamella Blakeney on August 12, 2013

    I would like to participate in your Y55 Happiness Training, but I don’t have a smart phone. Is there another way to participate? Thanks, Pam

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