Sense of Well-Being Has Positive Effect on Longevity

This study attempted to investigate the components of subjective well-being, such as feelings of well being, positivity, and satisfaction with life, and their association with longevity in people. The results of this study, which are based on data collected over 28 years, showed that all these factors lowered the chances of dying early. Positive emotions reduced the risk of dying from unnatural causes. On the other hand, negative moods and feelings were not found to be associated with mortality or early death in the studied individuals.

Health is defined as “physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease and infirmity,” and good health that encompasses all these aspects is the key to longevity. Until date, most clinical and epidemiological studies have attributed the presence of disease as the causative factor for decreased lifespan. Some studies, however, have shown that a positive outlook and positive emotions can lead to good health and well-being that translates into a longer lifespan. Some studies have shown that the difference in longevity between those with positive feelings and those with no positive feelings is bigger than the difference in longevity between nonsmokers and smokers. Positive feelings and emotional well-being can decrease blood pressure, prevent heart failure, improve hormonal balances and decrease blood cholesterol. This study looked at the effects of positive feelings and well-being on longevity in a general population.

* The data for this study was retrieved from the Alameda County Study, which involved 6,856 adults. The study was conducted over a span of 28 years between 1965 and 1993.
* Assessment of subjective well being, positive feelings, life satisfaction, negative feelings etc., was done using questionnaires.
* Longevity was estimated by assessing the risk of death due to natural and unnatural causes.

Key findings
* Subjective well being, positive feelings and life satisfaction were found to be related with a longer lifespan. They reduced the risk of dying due to a natural cause.
* It was also found that subjective well being, positive feelings and life satisfaction reduced the risk of death due to unnatural causes.
* Social bonding tended to strengthen these positive associations between emotional well being and longevity in the studied population.
* Similar results were found in both younger (below 55) and elderly (above 55) populations. Negative feelings, on the other hand were not associated with increase in risk of death due to any cause.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors of this study agree that the reports of health, emotional well-being and positive feelings were self-reported and there may have been an under reporting of chronic ailments, diseases and negative emotional states. This could have affected the results. Authors suggest further studies that assess the participants individually, over a long time.

This study shows that subjective well-being and its components such as positive feelings, life satisfaction and positive moods in the general population are associated with a significant reduction in the risk of dying from natural and unnatural causes. Both the younger and the elderly populations show this association. Emotional well-being was found to be strongly associated with good health. However, negative feelings or moods were not linked with a reduction in longevity in the study population. Therefore, it is concluded that while positive emotions increase longevity, negative emotions do not decrease it. Hence, positive emotions are considered as a “potential promoting agent for population longevity and health.”

For More Information:
The Power of Positive Emotions: It’s a Matter of Life or Death—Subjective Well-Being and Longevity Over 28 Years in a General Population
Publication Journal: Health Psychology, 2010
By Jingping Xu; Robert E. Roberts; University of Texas, Houston

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