Being Happy Doesn't Really Increase Your Life Span

Being Happy Doesn't Really Increase Your Life Span

Being pleased is nice & all, yet don't count on happiness to add years to your life — a new study finds that how pleased you are doesn't seem to affect your risk of dying early.

The study did find that being unhappy was linked with an increased risk of early death, yet it turned out that this was actually because people in poor health moreover tend to be unhappy. In other words, poor health, & not unhappiness, was the true cause of early death, the researchers said.

"Illness makes you unhappy, yet unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill," study researcher Bette Liu, of the University of New South Wales in Australia, said in a statement. "We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality." [7 Things That Will Make You Happy]

For the study, the researchers analyzed information from more than 700,000 U.K. women whose average age was 59. The researchers asked the women to rate their happiness, & then followed up with them for 10 years.

The researchers found that 39 percent of the women said they were pleased most of the time, 44 percent said they were usually pleased & 17 percent said they were usually unhappy.

The women who were unhappy were 29 percent more likely to die over the 10-year period, compared with the women who were pleased most of the time.

However, poor health at the start of the study was strongly associated with unhappiness, & the researchers found that, after they took into account the women's health, the link between unhappiness & early death went away.

The study moreover found that some unhealthy habits, such as smoking, were linked with unhappiness, which moreover partly explained the link between unhappiness & early death.

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

Because the study included only women, it's not clear whether the results apply to men as well. In fact, previous studies suggested that men & women may define happiness differently & that it's possible that happiness may be linked more strongly with an early death among men, Philipe de Souto Barreto & Yves Rolland, of the Institute of Ageing at University Hospital of Toulouse in France, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study in the journal.

More research is needed in both men & women, as well as in children & older adults, to examine the link between happiness & health, they said.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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