A new study has debunked the popular belief that happiness brings good health. The study was published on Wednesday in The Lancet. For the study, the researchers followed one million middle-aged women in Britain for a decade.
"Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality," the researchers concluded.
"Good news for the grumpy" is one way to interpret the findings, said Sir Richard Peto, an author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford.
Peto added that he started to research this subject because it is widely believed that stress and unhappiness cause disease. "Believing things that aren't true isn't a good idea," Professor Peto said in an interview. "There are enough scare stories about health."
Peto remarked that cause and effect were confused by earlier research. He added that unhappiness made people ill but the fact is that it is the other way around.
The researchers recruited women ages 50 to 69 and tracked them with questionnaires and official records of deaths and hospital admissions. The questionnaires prepared by the researchers asked simple questions: how often the women felt happy, in control, relaxed and stressed, and also instructed them to rate their health and list ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, arthritis and depression or anxiety.
The researchers included questions about happiness "because it's something a lot of people were interested in," Professor Peto said.
When the researchers analyzed the answers statistically, they found that unhappiness and stress were not associated with an increased risk of death.