Although being happy and content with your life cannot not spare you from the physical decline that comes with old age, it may allow you to enjoy a healthier and more active life than other people your age when you grow old. A new study suggests that people who enjoy life are healthier and more active in old age than unhappy people.

For the study, researchers at the University College London in UK asked 3,199 people who are 60 years old and older to answer a questionnaire designed to assess their well-being based on their answers to questions such as "I enjoy being in the company of others" and "I feel full of energy these days." The respondents were also asked to give their assessment on their ability to do daily activities, and some underwent tests that measured walking speed.

The researchers found that people who are happier tend to be more active in old age. Over eight years, only 4 percent of the respondents who had high scores in life enjoyment, developed problems relating to day-today activities, compared to 17 percent of those who least enjoyed life.

"The study shows that older people who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age," study author Andrew Steptoe, director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London, said in a statement. "They are less likely to develop impairments in activities of daily living such as dressing or getting in or out of bed, and their walking speed declines at a slower rate than those who enjoy life less."

Steptoe opined that less stress, which could mean more happiness, contributes to better health because it protects the body from the damaging effects of stress hormones. "These associations could be due to many things: the people with greater enjoyment of life could be more affluent, have less physical illness or disability to start with, or have healthier lifestyles at the outset, and these factors could predict the changes in physical function over time," he said.

Researchers, however said that the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Jan. 20, is "an observational study, so causal conclusions cannot be drawn".

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