Happiness Probably Won’t Help You Live Longer, Depressing New Study Finds

Beth Stebner
happiness study

(Getty Images)

Happiness is a relative concept, but it seems like we obsess over it every single waking second. Finding that fulfilling job, being in a deliriously perfect relationship—the right to pursue it is in our Constitution, for crying out loud, not to mention the countless studies that prove happy people live longer. But now, some news has come along to crush our hopes and dreams. Or at least make us want to ease up in our quest to capture perpetual pleasure.

New research out of the U.K. found that happiness doesn’t do a damn thing to increase your life expectancy, going against the aforementioned studies that were found to link unbridled emotional contentment to longevity.

The rather depressing findings, conducted by Sir Richard Peto of the University of Oxford, collected data from one million women in the U.K. ages 50 to 69, from 1996 to 2003 in the aptly-named Million Women study.

Through the years, researchers asked participants to reveal not only the women’s physical health, but how often they felt happy or depressed, in control or totally cut loose. And then researchers looked at how often those women had diseases like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, or a number of other diseases.

What they found was pretty astounding—women who reported being just plain miserable and stressed (but still in good health) didn’t have a higher likelihood of dying over the next decade.

Sir Peto told the New York Times that he wanted to conduct the study because there’s a general belief that being a Debbie Downer will lead to major health problems down the road.

“Believing things that aren’t true isn’t a good idea,” he told the Times. “There are enough scare stories in health.”

Or, as lead author Dr. Bette Lui of the University of New South Wales said in the article in British medical journal The Lancet, “Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn’t make you ill.”

On the plus side, the study found that being moody, glum, or an otherwise stick-in-the-mud wasn’t tied to dying any sooner (yay?).

So maybe that means we can just so ahead and throw a massive pity party for ourselves and not worry about the consequences.  With that said, here’s to a lifetime of grumpiness, sulking, and feeling bad that we’re not on a tropical island somewhere.


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