Saturday, December 12, 2015

Complex relationship between happiness and prolonged life

De you feel happy? I hope so. Then, do you think feeling happy is beneficial for life extension? It is difficult to answer. Previously, as well as expected by many people, a happy life was considered to reduce the mortality. However, a recent study denied this idea.

The Guardian: Happiness doesn't make you live longer, survey finds

This survey was conducted by Oxford University to prove the direct association between happiness and mortality. Approximately 720,000 women were subjected to the analyses in this study. The result shows no direct relationship between happiness and prolonged life.

The Lancet: Does happiness itself directly affect mortality? The prospective UK Million Women Study

Of course, being ill causes mortality, as well as unhappiness. And, an unhealthy lifestyle is also associated with unhappiness. After adjusting for such confounders, however, happiness was not associated with mortality. The researchers examined several factors of happiness potentially influenced the result. None of the factors was proven to affect the mortality rate, after all.

This study seems to have proven that the saying “Laugh and grow fat” is incorrect. In Japan, there is a saying with a similar meaning, “Warau kado niha fuku kitaru.” These proverbs can be trusted, for our common sense. Indeed, some studies suggest that smiling steadily brings you better health, through activating the immune systems. So, how can we interpret the discrepancy of these findings?

It is possible that, although happiness can make you a little stronger, its effect is minimal. A more approvable explanation is that a happy person has room to promote his/her physical health. In contrast, when you feel depressed due to some tough surroundings, you may be not able to care for your own lifestyle.

There is another issue that happiness is hard to be measured. The authors of the research accepted it. It is very vague whether you feel happy or not. Even if earning much money, some people feel hostile to others. Ordinary life is preferable for some people, while other seek excitement. You can be jealous of others when you know your neighbors are far richer. The score calculated with some self-measurement tools adopted in the study is merely an operational standard.

This study did not deprive us of our dream, but told us an simple fact. You should pursue your happiness, regardless of your physical health.

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