Harvard Women's Health Watch

Happiness may not extend life

Although poor health can lead to unhappiness and a shorter life, unhappiness alone is not associated with a shorter life span, according to a recent report from the Million Woman Study. That investigation has followed hundreds of thousands of women throughout the United Kingdom beginning in 1996 and has tracked deaths among the participants.

In the third year of the study, the women were asked to rate their health, happiness, stress, feelings of control, and whether they felt relaxed. When the researchers looked at data from 720,000 women with a median age of 59, they found that 83% reported being generally happy and 17% said they were unhappy. During 10 years of follow-up, 4% of participants died. When the researchers factored out poor health, which was strongly associated with unhappiness, they found that the risk of dying was essentially the same for happy and unhappy women. The study was published online Dec. 6, 2015, by The Lancet.

If you're feeling down in the dumps but are otherwise healthy, you may be somewhat cheered to learn that—at least according to this study—your mood might not affect your risk of dying in the next decade.