Page last updated at 00:05 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Happiness wards off heart disease, study suggests

Happy couple
Happiness has been linked to improve health before

Being happy and staying positive may help ward off heart disease, a study suggests.

US researchers monitored the health of 1,700 people over 10 years, finding the most anxious and depressed were at the highest risk of the disease.

They could not categorically prove happiness was protective, but said people should try to enjoy themselves.

But experts suggested the findings may be of limited use as an individual's approach to life was often ingrained.

At the start of the study, which was published in the European Heart Journal, participants were assessed for emotions ranging from hostility and anxiousness to joy, enthusiasm and contentment.

They were given a rating on a five-point scale to score their level of positive emotions.

By the end of the analysis, some 145 had developed heart disease - fewer than one in 10.

But for each rise in the happiness scale there was a 22% lower risk of developing heart disease.

Essentially spending a few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health and may improve your physical health as well
Dr Karina Davidson

The team believes happier people may have better sleeping patterns, be less liable to suffer stress and be more able to move on from upsetting experiences - all of which can reduce physical strain on the body.

Lead researcher Dr Karina Davidson admitted more research was needed into the link, but said she would still recommend that people try to develop a more positive outlook.

She said all too often people just waited for their "two weeks of vacation to have fun" when instead they should seek enjoyment each day.

"If you enjoy reading novels, but never get around to it, commit to getting 15 minutes or so of reading in.

"If walking or listening to music improves you mood, get those activities in your schedule.

"Essentially spending a few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health and may improve your physical health as well."

It is not the first study to suggest there is a link between happiness and health.

But Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation, suggested such an association may be of limited value anyway.

"We know that improving your mood isn't always easy - so we don't know if it's possible to change our natural levels of positivity."

Cardiologist Iain Simpson, of the British Cardiovascular Society, added: "Things like reducing cholesterol and diabetes are more important when it comes to reducing heart disease.

"But at the end of the day it heart disease is still the biggest killer in the UK so anything you can do to help should not be ignored."



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Happiness 'rubs off on others'
05 Dec 08 |  Health
Britain's happiest places mapped
28 Aug 08 |  Health
Happiness 'immune to life events'
13 Jul 08 |  Health
Genes 'play key happiness role'
05 Mar 08 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific