There was a 35 percent decrease in the risk of dying during a five-year study among people who reported being happy, content or excited on a typical day, compared with those who were sadder or more anxious, according to the Health and Science Briefing in Time Magazine.
WebMD reported on a study from the UK, older people who said they were happy, even for a little while, were less likely to die over a five-year period. And the happier they were, the longer they lived.
Overall, the results showed that older people who reported feeling happiest had a 35 percent lower risk of dying during the study than those who were least happy.
The study followed nearly 4,000 people in the UK between the ages of 52 and 79 for five years. It was a part of the longest running British study on aging.
Researchers said that the findings emphasize the importance of emotional well-being for older people. The results were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Another study with a similar conclusion, but strikingly different population drew a similar conclusion. In this study a group of nuns each wrote a biographical sketch upon acceptance into the convent. Six decades later, the contents of those sketches proved to be surprisingly strong indicators of whether the author was till alive and how healthy she was.
Jennifer Horton, writing for Discovery Fit & Health felt that the study was more convincing because it followed a group of people with nearly identical life histories. It also eliminated nearly all of the possible confounding variables such as diet and sociological background.
Despite their similar habits (intended) some of the nuns experienced long, illness free lives, while others succumbed to death at an early age. Those who had expressed the most positive emotions in their journals were the same ones who lived the longest. A staggering 90 percent of the most cheerful quarter of nuns were still alive at age 85, while only 34 percent of the least cheerful quarter were. The happiest nuns lived a full 10 years longer.
Horton noted that when combined with other indicators of longevity, happiness can have an even more pronounced effect. In a test of 50 variables thought to have an effect on a person’s lifespan, satisfaction ranked as one of the strongest predictors, right up there with expected indicators like genetics, intelligence, socioeconomic status, tobacco use and overall health. Coupled with one or more of these other factors, the tests indicated that happiness adds a total of 16 years to the life of a man and 23 years to the life of a woman.
So, it seems the words of that great singer, philosopher, Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy,” were profound indeed. McFerrin’s hit, released in September 1988 became the first acapella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it reigned for two weeks. The quote is actually from Meher Baba, an Indian mystic and spiritual leader.