Healthy living

Can happiness protect against heart disease?

Zone default image Don't worry, be happy!

Happy, enthusiastic people with a positive outlook on life are less likely to develop heart disease, according to a new study.

And the researchers even suggest that boosting someone's positive emotions might help prevent heart disease.

In the study, US researchers tracked 1,739 healthy men and women for over 10 years. Everyone at the start of the study were assessed for heart disease risk, symptoms of depression, hostility and anxiety.

They were also assessed for the degree to which they experienced positive emotions - joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentment, which the researchers called the "positive affect."

After taking into account age, sex, negative emotions and heart disease risk factors, the researchers found that an increased positive affect predicted a 22% lower risk of heart disease

Dr Karina Davidson, Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at Columbia University who led the study said: "Participants with no positive affect were at a 22% higher risk of ischaemic heart disease (heart attack or angina) than those with a little positive affect, who were themselves at 22% higher risk than those with moderate positive affect.

"As far as we know, this is the first prospective study to examine the relationship between clinically-assessed positive affect and heart disease.

The research team speculated that happier people may rest more and be less likley to dwell on stressful events and also recover from them more quickly.

Dr Davidson recommends that people should "seek enjoyment every day" rather than waiting for their two week holiday every year.

"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 although this is, as yet, not confirmed."

This article was published on Thu 18 February 2010

Image © Yuri Arcurs -

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