It’s well known that stress, depression and generally being none too happy with your lot in life has a huge impact on your health, but what about opposite states? Could the act of happiness and contentment help you to live longer?
New research published in the European Heart Journal this month examines data from a long term study of 8000 UK civil servants. The researchers examined levels of happiness amongst participants in an attempt to see if happiness brings with it above average cardiac health
Typical questions asked of participants were: “All things considered, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you” with each of the following: your job, leisure time, standard of living, health, sex life, “marital or love relationship,” and “yourself as a person.” The findings were published online July 4 in the European Heart Journal.
People who reported having the highest overall levels of satisfaction (ranked on a numerical scale) were about 26 percent less likely than the unsatisfied to have preliminary manifestations of coronary heart disease, such as chest pains—also known as definite angina. Moderately satisfied workers were about 20 percent less likely than the lowest-raters to have these heart problems.
The most important categories for heart health were job, family life, sex life and one’s self esteem —high satisfaction in each accounted for about a 12 percent dip in a person’s risk for moderate cardiac issues.
Participants were not significantly protected against heart attack or coronary disease but, as the researchers pointed out, “angina is a strong predictor of future cardiovascular events.” And as the participants were only, on average, about 50 years old, the less frequent chest pains in the especially satisfied might indicate that they will have healthier hearts down the road.
Despite the fact that the research group work in an increasingly underfunded and demotivated environment which has experienced sweeping and far reaching changes over the past few years, the results show promise.
So the next time you’re sweating it out down at the gym or resisting the temptation of something naughty but nice spare a thought for your levels of happiness and contentment they might prove to be just as important as a healthy diet and lifestyle.