Good news for Grinches - happiness doesn't make a difference when it comes to mortality, according to new research on 1 million British women.
The 10-year study, published in the journal The Lancet, found that contentment and a relaxed mind set have no direct effect on a person's longevity. Lead author, Bette Liu, now of the University of New South Wales, Australia argues that past studies that have suggested otherwise have simply confused cause and effect.
"Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill. We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality," she said in a press release.
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In fact, the researchers argue, promoting the belief that unhappiness can negatively impact your health is a dangerous mentality that can lead to blame-the-victim theories about people who become ill.
"Believing things that aren't true isn't a good idea," Richard Peto, co-author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told the New York Times. "There are enough scare stories about health."
The research tracked women enrolled in a long term research project called the UK Million Women Study. Three years after joining the study, women were sent a questionnaire asking them to rate their health, happiness, stress, feelings of control, and whether they felt relaxed.
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Five out of six of the women surveyed said they were generally happy. After allowing for differences in health and lifestyle factors, the death rate among those who were unhappy was found to be the same as the death rate among those who were generally happy.
It was the other factors - a tendency to smoke, skipping exercise and living alone, that, while associated with unhappiness, were the likely causes behind shortened mortality. (Incidentally, women who enjoyed an occasional drink were found to be happier.)
Bottom line, if you like to be a crank, go right ahead. Just remember to eat well, don't smoke and exercise regularly.