There are countless reasons why it’s important to prioritize our mental health, and now we have another one — a new study indicates that happiness helps you live longer. Although scientists have known for a long time that positive thinking and happiness are good for your health, it’s been difficult to determine the exact impact it has on life expectancy. Now, researchers who followed 10,000 older British men and women from 2002 to 2013 believe they’ve found evidence that a positive outlook really does have an impact on your lifespan.
“We set out to discover whether sustained well-being was important,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Andrew Steptoe. “Previous studies relating positive feelings with health have been done, but have been based on a single measure of well-being. People’s assessments of their well-being go up and down, so measures taken on a single occasion may be affected by their current situation.”
The researchers didn’t focus solely on happiness — they also asked the participants about their overall well-being and enjoyment of life.
For example, they were asked whether they agreed with statements such as “I feel full of energy these days” and “I enjoy the things that I do.” When researchers conducted follow-ups seven years after collecting the participants’ final responses, they found a significant correlation between enjoyment of life and reduced mortality.
Overall, the study found that people who kept a positive outlook on life for the longest periods of time were the most likely to have long life spans — and this tells us a lot about how maintaining a positive outlook during both the high and low points of our lives impacts longevity.
“The fact that we found stronger associations with mortality with multiple reports of high well-being indicates that not only the strength, but also the duration of positive feelings is important,” Steptoe told The Huffington Post.
This latest study provides further credence to the point that physical and psychological health are closely connected. One study indicated that a positive outlook may impact the prevention and management of illnesses, while another found that optimistic women are at a reduced risk for early death.
So, there you have it — although positive emotions don’t come naturally to everyone (especially individuals who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses), it’s incredibly important to take care of our mental health.
Not only does everyone deserve happiness, but it’ll also lead to a longer life.