Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Happiness CAN help you live longer: The higher your levels of contentment, the lower your risk of premature death, say scientists

These results probably mean only that healthier people are happier. Surprising if they weren't

People who are happy and have a positive outlook live longer, according to scientists. A five year study of almost 4,000 52 to 79-year-olds revealed that the those who reported higher levels of contentment had a 35 per cent lower risk of premature death.

It is now hoped the findings from the University College of London will further promote 'positive well-being' as a remedy for stress and ill health.

Participants involved in the study were asked to rate their feelings of happiness or anxiety four times over the course of a day. The number of deaths were then recorded over a five-year period.

After taking into account age, gender, depression, certain diseases and health-related behaviours scientists found those who reported feeling happiest had a 35 per cent reduced risk of dying early compared with those who reported feeling least happy.

Lead researcher Professor Andrew Steptoe said: 'The present findings provide further reason to target the positive well-being of older people.'

The long-term study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, backs previous scientific claims that a 'glass half full' approach can have various health benefits.

In March scientists from the University of Illinois found positive moods reduced stress-related hormones and strengthened the immune system.

In a review of 160 animal and human studies Prof Ed Diener and his team concluded that happiness 'contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations.'

Meanwhile anxiety, depression, and pessimism were linked to higher rates of disease and a shorter lifespan.

In recent years positive psychology has received growing interest and in 2006 cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) - a form of psychotherapy that promotes happiness - was made available to NHS patients in a bid to tackle the £17 billion cost of depression and anxiety on the UK economy.

Despite the recent findings Professor Steptoe said that there is still no proof feeling happier extends life-span and instead stressed the importance of emotional well-being among older people.


Commuting 'bad for health'

Pretty muddled findings but if they mean anything we could be seeing again a confusion of cause and effect. Many poor people can only find accomodation far from their workplace because it is cheaper out in the sticks. So they have to spend more time commuting. And poor people have worse health anyway

Commuting by car or public transport can be bad for your health, a study indicates. It found those who used a car, bus or train as their principal way of getting to work suffered more stress, greater sickness absence, and poorer sleep than those who walked or cycled.

Researchers based their results on a public health survey of 21,000 full time workers, aged between 18 and 65, in southern Sweden.

Erik Hanssen from the division of occupational and environmental medicine at Lund University, said: "Generally car and public transport users suffered more everyday stress, poorer sleep quality, exhaustion and, on a seven point scale, felt that they struggled with their health compared to the active commuters.

"The negative health of public transport users increased with journey time."

The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, could not prove that commuting caused ill health, emphasised the authors, because it was only a snapshot in time and there were so many other variables at play.

They tried to account for the fact that people who commuted in different ways were likely to be drawn from different backgrounds, but the academics conceded this could be a factor in health differences.

For example, those who commuted by car for over an hour reported better health than those whose drives lasted from 30 to 60 minutes, a finding that seemed to be at odds with the rest of the study.

Hanssen said of the longer distance commuters: "It could be that these drivers tended to be men, and high-income earners, who travelled in from rural areas, a group that generally consider themselves to be in good."


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