People who enjoy life are less likely to die prematurely, according to research at University College London.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, assessed the happiness of 9,000 volunteers between the ages of 50 and 70.
They were asked about their enjoyment of life, how much they enjoyed the company of others and how much they enjoyed daily activities.
Almost a quarter of respondents said they experienced no enjoyment in any category. One third were positive in all three.
In the seven years following the study, 1,310 of the participants died. Those who reported high life enjoyment in all three assessments were 24 per cent less likely to die during the study period. Those who reported high enjoyment in two categories had a 17 per cent reduced risk over the seven years.
The researchers suggest this is because general mood affects the levels of certain hormones in the body (serotonin, for example) which play a part in overall health. Happiness has been shown to reduce levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which can raise blood pressure.
The researchers acknowledge that they found no causal link between happiness and health, speculating that ‘enjoyment of life might exert an influence through associations with healthy lifestyle’.
Happiness is an elusive quantity and varies from person to person but this study suggests that sustained life enjoyment may be beneficial to our long-term health and that by having more fun we could be reducing our risk of dying in the next seven years by a quarter. It has long been known that subjective wellbeing is associated with a reduced risk of mortality of all causes but most studies have previously looked at assessing wellbeing on one occasion only. This study measured life enjoyment taken three times at two yearly intervals, and then analysed mortality in the following seven years.