Being happy doesn't just improve the quality of your life, it may increase your longevity as well, according to a new study.
The research suggests that activities and programs aimed at maintaining or improving happiness may be beneficial for increasing life expectancy among seniors.
Carried out by researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, the study gathered data from 4,478 participants aged 60 years and older living in Singapore who took part in a nationally representative survey.
The survey assessed happiness by asking participants how often in the past week they experienced the following — "I felt happy," "I enjoyed life" and "I felt hope about the future."
The responses were then used to analyze the results in two ways, firstly calculating a happiness score of zero to six for each participant, and secondly by defining them as either happy or unhappy.
After taking into account a wide range of potentially influencing demographics, lifestyle choices, health and social factors, the researchers found that an increase in happiness is directly proportional with a reduction in mortality.
More specifically, among happy older people, 15 per cent passed away between 2009, when happiness was assessed, and the end of 2015.
However, 20 per cent of unhappy older people died during the same period, with the researchers calculating that the risk of dying due to any cause was 19 per cent lower for happy older people.
In addition, for every increase of one point on the happiness score, the team found that the risk of dying due to any cause was reduced by an additional 9 per cent.
The inverse association of happiness with risk of death was also consistent among both men and women and among the younger seniors (aged 60 to 79 years) and the older seniors (aged 75 years or older).
"The findings indicate that even small increments in happiness may be beneficial to older people's longevity," explained senior author Assistant Professor Rahul Malhotra. "Therefore individual activities, as well as government policies and programs that maintain or improve happiness or psychological well-being may contribute to a longer life among older people."
"The consistency of the inverse association of happiness with mortality across age groups and gender is insightful — men and women, the young-old and the old-old, all are likely to benefit from an increase in happiness," added co-author June May-Ling Lee.
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Previous research has also found a link between happiness and improved health outcomes, however the link with reduced mortality has so far proved inconclusive.
The new study is also one of the first to assess the association between happiness and mortality among Asian seniors, while still accounting for several social factors, such as loneliness and social network.
The findings can be found published online in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society.
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