Smile! Happiness after 60 key to living longer, study claims

SINGAPORE — Happiness could be the key to a longer life, a new study finds.

Researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore found that the happier a person is, the more likely they’ll enjoy a greater lifespan.

Turning to a study of 4,478 Singaporeans who were 60 or older, the study’s authors sought to find a connection between happiness levels and dying from any cause between 2009 and 2015. Participants were polled with questions asking them how often in the past week they agreed with statements such as, “I felt happy,” “I enjoyed life,” and “I felt hope about the future.” Other factors such as health, lifestyle choices, and social habits were also taken into consideration as the authors generated “happiness scores” for each participant.

Ultimately, 15% of participants who scored higher on the happiness assessment passed away by the end of the study period, compared to 20% of unhappy people. The researchers calculated that the odds of dying from any cause were 19% lower for happy older people. In fact, each increase of one point for one’s happiness score meant another 9% lower risk of death.

“The findings indicate that even small increments in happiness may be beneficial to older people’s longevity,” says senior author Rahul Malhotra, an assistant professor and Head of Research at Duke-NUS’ Centre for Ageing Research and Education, in a statement. “Therefore individual-level 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.”

Previous studies have shown happiness is associated with better health, but the researchers say evidence has long been inconclusive when it comes to a link to living longer. They believe their research is among the few Asian studies that examine the connection while taking lifestyle factors and other demographics into consideration.

The full study was published August 27, 2018 in the journal Age and Ageing.