New Study: Greater sense of wellbeing linked to longer life span

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happy mature couple at beach(NaturalHealth365) Advances in medicine and in public health have led to an all-time high in the United States, with a life expectancy of 76 years for men and 81 for women. How do you know if you are one of the ones with potential to live up to and beyond the average? The answer may be related to your sense of wellbeing.

Of course, the quality of our diet has much to do with the quality of our life. But, having said that, what do most centenarians have in common with each other? According to Dr. Nil Barzilai, director of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Institute for Aging Research, “they had two things – a positive attitude for life, meaning they are optimistic, easygoing, extraverted, laughed more and expressed emotions rather than bottling them up,”

Science does support the notion that attitude matter. New research published in the journal, The Lancet, shows that you may be likely to live longer if you feel worthwhile and that you have a purpose in life. It turns out that our attitude may have much to do with our life span – above and beyond ‘normal’ factors like diet and exercise.

What is the scientific link between wellbeing and life span?

The ‘Lancet study’ was conducted by researchers from University College London, Princeton University, and Stony Brook University. Participants included over 9,000 English people, with an average age of 65 years, who answered questionnaires about their feelings of self-worth, purpose, life satisfaction, and mood so that they could be categorized into quartiles of wellbeing.

They also informed researchers about factors such as their health and economic status.

Over the next 8.5 years, researchers recorded which of the participants died and which survived. As it turns out, participants in the highest quartile of wellbeing had a 30 percent lower chance of dying than those in the lowest quartile.

Some regional and age variations are also apparent when looking at wellbeing. The greatest sense of wellbeing tends to come before age 45 and after age 54 in high-income, English-speaking countries, while those in Latin America, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe tend to report decreased wellbeing with increased age. Those in sub-Saharan Africa have more stable levels of wellbeing throughout life.

Is it possible to increase our life expectancy?

Professor Steptoe is the study’s leading researcher and Director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care. He says, “We have previously found that happiness is associated with a lower risk of death. These analyses also show that the meaningfulness and sense of purpose that older people in their lives are also related to survival.”

Mr. Steptoe warns, however, that, “We cannot be sure that higher wellbeing necessarily causes lower risk of death, since the relationship may not be causal.” Still, even if higher wellbeing does not cause a greater life expectancy, some of the things that you do to increase wellbeing might also improve your physical health and life expectancy.  To some, this may not be a ‘revelation’, but for many people interested in a longer, healthier life – I hope this information triggers positive changes. 

Clearly, the way we eat, think, feel and respond to life has tremendous influence over the quality (and length) of our existence.

Naturally, there are some ways you can improve your attitude – regardless of your age or health status. They include the following:

  • Focus on the present moment – well-trained athletes are great at this.  Stop worrying about the future or being upset about the past.
  • Be grateful for what you have – create a ‘gratitude journal’.
  • Do things you enjoy and have a purpose.
  • Take time for yourself.

Some final thoughts about living a long, healthy life…

“Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” – Anthony Robbins

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” – George Burns

References:
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2961489-0/fulltext
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-11-purpose-life-linked-longer-lifespan.html
http://www.nbcrightnow.com/story/26734327/us-life-expectancy-hits-record-high-of-nearly-79-years-cdc

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  • Denise P

    This is a very interesting summary of a little known fact. In a 2007 study, which followed over 6,000 men and women aged 25 to 74 for about 20 years found what is stated in this article. A sense of both hopefulness, enthusiasm, and vitality has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

    The protective effect of these emotions was measurable across the board. Even those with a healthy lifestyle, which included regular exercise and no bad habits such as smoking gained from having a positive attitude.

  • Johnny Tyler

    There is a vast amount of scientific literature that shows how negative emotions can promote illness including heart disease, atherosclerosis, and inflammation. The truth is negative emotions are half of the equation.

    The wide spread notion that if you’re not depressed you are fine is wrong. Positive mental and emotional health goes beyond that simplistic view. We need and thrive on being grateful and happy along with a sense of purpose.