Very Important and Reassuring Study
I love this study! I want to run up and down the halls, shouting; "I told you so!" I want to reassure all the worried women with whom I have talked over the years, and I want to verbally smack all their friends who tried to tell them otherwise. You know, all those people who tell you that you must have a positive attitude or that stress causes cancer or that, in any other indirect way, this is all your fault.
Here is the banner headline: Happiness does not extend life, and unhappiness does not shorten it.
At least three or four times each week, I talk with women who are very distressed by their belief that maintaining a positive attitude, which of course no one can do all of the time, is imperative for their cancer-related health. For years, I have said, over and over and over and over, that being scared or sad or stressed or angry most surely impacts the quality of your days, it has nothing to do with the number of your days. And now, from Oxford University and published in The Lancet, comes a very large study that proves this point.
Note this quote from co-author, Sir Richard Peto: “Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can directly cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect.” The commonly used example is the fact that more people did in bed than in any other spot. Does this make a bed the most dangerous place in the house? Of course not. It means that sick and dying people are likely to be in bed, so that is the site of death.
Going right to the study and giving you several links to read more. You might consider printing one of these and being prepared to hand it to the next person who tries to lecture you about your stress level or your mood. You might also consider bonking them on the head with it.
First, from The Guardian
Happiness doesn't make you live longer, survey finds
But on the upside, stress-related misery doesn’t kill you faster either, say researchers on the UK Million Women study
Happiness does not make you live longer and stress-related misery will not shorten your life, according to a major new study. Many people believe that unhappiness, caused by working conditions, stressful relationships or general dissatisfaction with one’s lot, is likely to be life-shortening. Some studies have in the past appeared to support that theory. But, according to Oxford University researchers, they have generally not allowed for the unhappiness caused by poor health.
A study of just under 1 million women in the UK around the age of 60, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that it was true poor health made people unhappy. It is also true that poor health made people live shorter lives. But it is not true, they said, that unhappiness was life-shortening of itself.
“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. “We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a 10-year study of a million women.”
The paper is part of the UK Million Women study, which has also investigated the causes of breast and ovarian cancers. The women, recruited through the breast screening programme between 1996 and 2001, filled in questionnaires about many aspects of their lives and health, including their happiness, and are still being followed up today.
Co-author Prof Sir Richard Peto, of the University of Oxford, said: “The claim that this [unhappiness] is an important cause of mortality is just nonsense. Compare it with light smoking, where, if you smoke five to 10 a day, you are twice as likely to die in middle age.”
Unhappiness may make people behave in an unhealthy way, such as eating or drinking too much or harming themselves. “But if you ask does it of itself have any direct effect on mortality, it doesn’t,” he said.
And from Consumer Healthday
Unhappiness Won't Kill You
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Here's some good news for the grim and the grumpy: A new study claims that unhappiness itself has no direct effect on whether people will die before their time.
Women in poor health are more likely to be unhappy, but their unhappiness does not in and of itself increase their overall risk of early death, researchers concluded after evaluating data on more than 700,000 women from the United Kingdom.
Earlier research on happiness and health put the cart before the horse, confusing cause and effect, said study co-author Sir Richard Peto, a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford in England.
"Illness makes you unhappy and causes stress," Peto said. "Illness is the thing causing unhappiness, not unhappiness causing illness."
And, finally, from Lancet
Happiness and unhappiness have no direct effect on mortality
What defines a good life? If in answering this question
you included happiness in your list, you are not alone.
Indeed, the pursuit and enjoyment of happiness is a
common goal and desire in life for most people. Adults
of all ages, including those in old age, frequently report
the experience of happiness as a determinant of a good
life.1 Since both happiness and health are crucial aspects
of quality of life, medical work about the potential
positive effects of happiness on a person’s health and
longevity is a growing area that has received increasing
attention in the past decade.