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New Study says Life Expectancy Not Related to Happiness

December 10, 2015
Public Health

A study of one million women has concluded that people’s emotional state has no effect on life expectancy. Whilst poor health can cause unhappiness, researchers claim previous studies have confused cause and effect. The results of the Million Women Study have been published in the Lancet.

The research was part of the national survey of women’s health a collaborative project between Cancer Research UK and the NHS involving women between the ages of 50 and 69. The participants were sent a questionnaire three years after joining the survey asking them to rate their health, happiness, levels of control and stress. Records were then linked electronically for mortality and hospital admissions over the ten year period. Details of preexisting medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and arthritis were also recorded.

Professor Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford, was one of the studies co-authors and said; “Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can directly cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect. Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the UK Million Women Study shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates.”

One in six women admitted to being generally unhappy during the survey while nonsmokers appeared to be happier than smokers. Scientists however have been quick to point out that while there appears to be no link with overall mortality, unhappiness can lead to a range of dangerous behaviours such as excessive alcohol consumption and drug dependency.