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Dec 10, 2015 08:20 AM EST

Happiness does not guarantee good heath


A new study by British researchers suggests that the long held view that happiness leads to good health and longevity is unfounded, NY Times reports.    

The study was published on Wednesday in The Lancet.

"Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill," said Dr Bette Liu, now at the University of New South Wales in Australia, according to The Guardian.

"We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a 10-year study of a million women."

The researchers followed one million middle-aged women in Britain a decade. The Million Women Study recruited women aged 50 to 69 from 1996 to 2001, and tracked them with questionnaires and official records of deaths and hospital admissions.

"Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality," the researchers concluded.

Sir Richard Peto, an author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford said the findings of the study were..."Good news for the grumpy".

"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 said that he and his fellow researchers studied the subject because there is a widespread belief that stress and unhappiness cause disease, which results in people blaming negativity for the cause of ailments.

The new study suggests that it is not unhappiness that makes people ill; rather it is illness that makes people unhappy.

It is not clear whether the findings of the study apply to men.

"This finding refutes the large effects of unhappiness and stress on mortality that others have claimed," Dr. Peto said.

However, some observers noted that measuring emotions is more complex than simply declaring happiness or unhappiness.

"I would have liked to see more discussion of how people translate these complicated feelings into a self-report of happiness," said Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University who studies decision-making, who was not involved in the study.

"Think about everything that's going on in your life and tell me how happy you are. Happiness is a squishy measure."

An editorial accompanying the study in The Lancet noted that it had "the largest population so far in happiness studies." However, the editorial pointed out the need for more research.

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