Researchers analyzed one million women and found sad people are not less likely to live longer compared to happy people. The new study revealed that those who have poor health are more likely to be sad because of their health condition.
Standalone stress and unhappiness did not yield association to increased mortality risk within the 10-year study. Researchers suggest that the common belief of stress causing poor health stems from papers that jumbled caused and effect.
"Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill," said lead author Dr. Bette Liu from the University of New South Wales.
One million women aged 50 and above were tracked in the span of three years wherein they rated their level of happiness. Five out of six women admitted to being happy in general. Women who smoked, had less exercise and lived without a partner were found to be the least happy.
Notably, women who had poor health said they were stressed, unhappy, not relaxed and not in control. The findings extended to heart disease mortality, cancer mortality and overall mortality.
The study's major finding covered 700,000 women from the study whose average age was 59. The women's mortality and health data were recorded in the span of 10 years wherein 30,000 have died. After factoring in health and lifestyle differences, the overall death rate among the happy and unhappy ones were the same.
"Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the UK Million Women Study shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates," said co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto from the University of Oxford.
Unhealthy behaviors such as lack of exercise, smoking, and indulging on processed or fast foods increase the risks of early death. The Million Women Study was jointly conducted by the National Health Service and Cancer Research UK. The recent study was published in The Lancet journal on Dec. 9.
The effects of overall wellbeing and happiness among people are given much attention. In 2012, David Cameron launched The Happiness Index which measures the well-being levels nationwide.