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Being Happy Won't Give You A Longer Life

First Posted: Dec 10, 2015 12:09 PM EST
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Is happiness the key to a longer life? No, not really, according to a recent study.

While previous studies have linked happiness to longevity, researchers now believe that happiness and unhappiness alike do not influence mortality.

"Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can directly cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect," Richard Peto, a co-author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. The new study "shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates."

During the study, researchers gave 715,000 British women between the ages of 50 and 69 who were enrolled in a national breast cancer screening program in the late 1990s questionnaires to determine their level of happiness. While 40 percent of the women reported that they were happy most of the time, 44 percent said they were usually happy and 17 percent said they were usually unhappy. Over a 10-year-period, findings showed that the women who were unhappy were 29 percent more likely to die when compared to happy counterparts.

However, researchers noted that poor health at the beginning of the study was more strongly linked to unhappiness. Furthermore, unhealthy habits such as smoking were also linked to unhappiness, which may partially explain the link between unhappiness and early death.

"It's such a common belief that stress and unhappiness causes death and disease but it's actually the other way around," said Richard Peto, a professor at the University of Oxford who was one of the study's authors. "People should focus on the real issues that shorten their lives, like smoking and obesity."

The study is published in the journal The Lancet.

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