It is generally true that poor health can cause unhappiness and poor health increases mortality. What we don’t know for sure is if unhappiness is linked to earlier mortality.
If you are generally a happy person, are you as less likely to die of your health issues?
This 10 year long study looked at 700 000 women in the UK who reported being happy most of the time (39%), usually happy (44%), and generally unhappy (17%). During the 10-year follow-up, 4% (approx. 30 0000) of the participants died.
After adjusting for potential confounders (e.g. smoking, BMI), they concluded that, “…poor health can cause unhappiness.” and that “…happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality.”
Basically, we all die weather we have a generally happy or a miserable disposition. We all will eventually experience some health issues: our quality of life can be determined by our perception of how serious these issues are!
On the other hand, another study showed that happiness was associated with reduced likelihood of mortality among the senior population.2
So how does one become happy?
That’s a complex question as happiness appears to be influenced by genetics, personal and social relationships, time use, and perceived economic prosperity & health.3 However, if I had to give one piece of advice, it would be to write 3 positive experiences of your day, EVERYDAY! Write it in a journal, or text it to yourself or someone else…it’s that simple!
Women Study Collaborators. Does happiness itself directly affect mortality? The prospective UK Million Women Study. Lancet. 2016 Feb 27;387(10021):874-81.
Chei C et al Happy older people live longer. Age Ageing. 2018 Nov 1;47(6):860-866.
Steptoe A. Investing in Happiness: The Gerontological Perspective. Gerontology. 2019;65(6):634-639.