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"Good News for the Grumpy": Happiness Does Not Lengthen Life



(p. A6) A study published on Wednesday [Dec. 9, 2015] in The Lancet, following one million middle-aged women in Britain for 10 years, finds that the widely held view that happiness enhances health and longevity is unfounded.

"Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality," the researchers concluded.

"Good news for the grumpy" is one way to interpret the findings, said Sir Richard Peto, an author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford.

He and his fellow researchers decided to look into the subject because, he said, there is a widespread belief that stress and unhappiness cause disease.

Such beliefs can fuel a tendency to blame the sick for bringing ailments on themselves by being negative, and to warn the well to cheer up or else.

"Believing things that aren't true isn't a good idea," Professor Peto said in an interview. "There are enough scare stories about health."

The new study says earlier research confused cause and effect, suggesting that unhappiness made people ill when it is actually the other way around.


. . .


Professor Peto said particularly important data came from 500,000 women who reported on their baseline surveys that they were in good health, with no history of heart disease, cancer, stroke or emphysema.

A "substantial minority" of these healthy women said they were stressed or unhappy, he said, but over the next decade they were no more likely to die than were the women who were generally happy.



For the full story, see:

DENISE GRADY. "Happiness Doesn't Bring Good Health, Study Finds." The New York Times (Thurs., DEC. 10, 2015): A6.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 9, 2015, and has the title "Happiness Doesn't Bring Good Health, Study Finds.")


The research summarized in the passages quoted above, appeared in:


Liu, Bette, Sarah Floud, Kirstin Pirie, Jane Green, Richard Peto, and Valerie Beral. "Does Happiness Itself Directly Affect Mortality? The Prospective UK Million Women Study." The Lancet (Dec. 9, 2015) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01087-9.







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