Happiness is linked to health, according to two new studies.
One study, published in the journal Emotion, found people who experience a wide range of pleasant emotions have lower levels of physical inflammation. Another study, published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, found subjective assessments of well-being might influence health.
The studies are part of a growing body of research linking mental and physical health. For example, one previous study found people with chronic back pain may have worse mental health. Numerous studies have linked exercise to better mental health, including one study that found better mental health in seniors who exercise and a trio of studies that found exercise can prevent and treat depression.
Understanding the Link Between Well-Being and Health
The Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being review explored how and why happiness is linked to physical well-being. Specifically, researchers found subjective assessments of well-being—such as enjoyment of life or greater life satisfaction—appear to improve physical health.
Can Happiness Fight Inflammatory Processes?
The Emotion study measured biomarkers of inflammation in 175 adults aged 40-65. Participants maintained diaries of their emotions for 30 days.
While range of negative emotions had no effect on inflammation, researchers found people who experienced a greater variety of positive emotions each day had fewer markers of inflammation. This correlation persisted even when researchers controlled for other factors linked to inflammation, such as body mass index (BMI), use of anti-inflammatory drugs, and medical conditions.
Inflammation plays a role in a wide range of medical conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic inflammation causes oxidative stress, which can damage cells and lead to illnesses and age-related degeneration.
The study found the factor most relevant to inflammation was a diversity of positive experiences, not just higher-than-average positive emotions. To achieve better health, the authors suggest labeling and categorizing positive feelings as people experience them.
- Diener, E., Pressman, S. D., Hunter, J., & Delgadillo-Chase, D. (2017). If, why, and when subjective well-being influences health, and future needed research. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 9(2), 133-167. doi:10.1111/aphw.12090
- Happiness can affect physical health. (2017, July 17). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170717100550.htm
- Kelley, S. (n.d.). Study: Many kinds of happiness promote better health. Retrieved from http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2017/07/study-many-kinds-happiness-promote-better-health
- Khansari, N., Shakiba, Y., & Mahmoudi, M. (2009). Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress as a major cause of age-related diseases and cancer. Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery, 3(1), 73-80. doi:10.2174/187221309787158371
- Ong, A. D., Benson, L., Zautra, A. J., & Ram, N. (2017). Emodiversity and biomarkers of inflammation. Emotion. doi:10.1037/emo0000343
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