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In the news: between April 13 - 20, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in the media between April 13 and 20, 2015

Happiness linked to longer life - CNNMoney.com

Being happy doesn't just improve the quality of your life. According to a new study, it may increase the quantity of your life as well.

Older people were up to 35% less likely to die during the five-year study if they reported feeling happy, excited, and content on a typical day. And this was true even though the researchers took factors such as chronic health problems, depression, and financial security out of the equation.

"We had expected that we might see a link between how happy people felt over the day and their future mortality, but we were struck by how strong the effect was," says Andrew Steptoe, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a professor of psychology at University College London, in the United Kingdom.

Previous studies on happiness and longevity have largely relied on the participants' ability to recall how they felt during a certain period of time in the past. These recollections aren't always accurate, though, and to get around this problem Steptoe and his colleagues asked more than 3,800 people to record their levels of happiness, anxiety, and other emotions at four specific times over the course of a single day.

It may seem far-fetched that a person's feelings on one particular day would be able to predict the likelihood of dying in the near future, but these emotional snapshots have proven to be a good indication of overall temperament in previous studies, says Sarah Pressman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence.

"There is always room for error, of course; if I get a parking ticket or stub my toe on the way to the study, I'm not going to be particularly happy," says Pressman, who was not involved in the study but researches the impact of happiness on health. "But given that the study worked, it suggests that, on average, this day was fairly typical for the participants."

However, this study and others like it should help establish happiness as a legitimate area of concern for health professionals, Pressman says. "There are still some people who see happiness as something fluffy and less scientific -- not something they should be worried about like, say, stress or depression," she says.

Happiness, she adds, "may be something for doctors to ask their patients about."

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