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Study: Happiness doesn’t bring good health

Study: Happiness doesn’t bring good healthA study published on Wednesday in The Lancet, following one million middle-aged women in Britain for 10 years, finds that “happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality.”

Sir Richard Peto, an author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, and his fellow researchers decided to look into the subject because, he said, there is a widespread belief that stress and unhappiness cause disease.

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

The results come from the so-called Million Women Study, which recruited women ages 50 to 69 from 1996 to 2001, and tracked them with questionnaires and official records of deaths and hospital admissions. The questionnaires asked how often the women felt happy, in control, relaxed and stressed, and also instructed them to rate their health and list ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, arthritis and depression or anxiety.

The researchers included questions about happiness “because it’s something a lot of people were interested in,” Professor Peto said.

When the answers were analyzed statistically, unhappiness and stress were not associated with an increased risk of death. It is not clear whether the findings apply to men.

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.

“This finding refutes the large effects of unhappiness and stress on mortality that others have claimed,” Dr. Peto said.

Unhappiness itself may not affect health directly, but it can do harm in other ways, by driving people to suicide, alcoholism or other dangerous behaviors, he warned.

Via: New York Times
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