Does Happiness Make You Live Longer? Maybe Not!

Is happiness correlated with a long life?  Drs. Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin published a book on this topic in 2011 that was based on the data gathered from The Longevity Project, a longitudinal study of 1,500 United States individuals that began in 1921.  The key finding was that happiness was NOT correlated to long life, but that both happiness and long life were correlated with specific patterns of living that included honesty and health-consciousness.  The authors state, “Following over 1,500 American across many decades, we have found that the same behaviors, personalities, friendships, and careers that make you happy are the ones that help you stay healthy” (Friedman, para. 7).

The Longevity Project was initiated by Dr. Lewis Terman, a Stanford University psychologist, who looked for children born about 1910 for his study.  Dr. Terman died in 1956, but others continued the study.  Individuals who were selected for the study were tracked over the lengths of their lives, including information about what they ate, how they felt, when they were sick, what they did for a living, who they married, and when they died.  The data gathered was invaluable, because most of it was factual and contemporaneous, rather than based on recollection or self-reporting.  Some of the myths of long life that this study disproves include the following (Friedman & Martin):

1. Get married and you will live longer (not true)

2.  Thinking happy thoughts reduces stress and leads to long life (not true)

3.  Worrying is bad for your health (not true)

In fact, the study suggests that worrying can actually be good for a person, and that living a “meaningful” life “dedicated to work, genuine friends and dependable lifestyles” was the key to health, happiness and longevity (Friedman, para. 9).

Sources:

Friedman, H. (2011, April 2).  Does Being Happy Improve Our Health?  You Might Be Surprised.  Huffpost healthy Living Blog, Retrieved April 24, 2012 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-s-friedman-phd/happiness-health-longevity_b_841165.html 

Friedman, H. and Martin, L. (n.d.).  Read the Introduction.  The Longevity Project Website, Retrieved April 25, 2012 from http://www.howardsfriedman.com/longevityproject/

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