Friday, February 26, 2016

How Happiness (Subjective Well-Being) Influences Health

Emerging research shows that happiness has a positive impact on health. According to a recent report entitled “The Objective Benefits of Subjective Well-Being,” being in a happier state of mind has been shown to have a positive correlation with human health, with some of the benefits including:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved cardiovascular health, immune and endocrine systems
  • Lowered risk of heart disease, stroke and susceptibility to infection
  • The practice of good health behaviors such as better diet, exercise, weight control and less likelihood of smoking
  • Speedier recoveries
  • Greater survival and longevity rates

The research indicates that happiness and, conversely, unhappiness have a direct association with physiological processes related to health and disease. Subjective well-being influences physiological processes underlying health and disease, which makes it predictive of such health conditions as higher risk of heart disease or recovery periods in the wake of an injury or disease.

Additionally, because happier individuals are more likely to take care of themselves—as manifested in such positive health habits and practices such as healthy eating and regular exercise—they are more likely to experience better health. A negative outlook, on the other hand, may cause people to undertake unhealthy habits to relieve stress such as poor eating habits, smoking and lack of motivation to exercise.

As people attempt to recover from a health setback, research indicates that stress, depression and other negative emotions can have a negative impact on recovery and mortality rates. There is also significant research, including some very informative primate studies, indicating a strong correlation between positive mood and longevity.

While the research paper indicates more study is necessary, it’s an encouraging sign to realize that we can affect our own health and longevity by keeping a positive outlook on life.


De Neve, J.-E., Diener, E., Tay, L., & Xuereb, C. (2013) The objective benefits of subjective well-being. In Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J., eds. World Happiness Report 2013. New York: UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

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