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Happiness is not Linked to Longevity, Study Says

Update Date: Dec 10, 2015 09:36 AM EST

Being happy or sad will not affect your lifespan, a new study is reporting.

According to new research, which was based on 10 years of data collected on one million middle-aged women living in Britain, "happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality."

The data came from the Million Women Study, which interviewed women from 1996 through to 2001 when they were between the ages of 50 and 69. On top of the questionnaires, which asked them about their health and emotions, the researchers also looked at death and hospital admissions records.

Study author, Sir Richard Peto, a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, explained that he and his colleagues were interested in examining the link between happiness and wellbeing due to the fact that many people tend to think that stress and sadness can lead to illnesses even though there is no scientific proof that that is the case. Previous studies have only found correlations and not cause-and-effect relationships.

"Believing things that aren't true isn't a good idea," he said reported by the New York Times. "There are enough scare stories about health."

The researchers noted that their findings may or may not apply to men. Critics of the study questioned how the researchers measured emotions, which can be very difficult to scale.

"I would have liked to see more discussion of how people translate these complicated feelings into a self-report of happiness," commented Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University who was not a part of the study. "Think about everything that's going on in your life and tell me how happy you are. Happiness is a squishy measure."

The researchers noted that despite their findings, people will most likely still link sadness with illnesses. They hope that their findings could influence some people at least to try to extend their lives by making lifestyle changes, such as increasing their physical activity levels or eating better.

The study was published in The Lancet.

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