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Happiness Tied to Fewer Doctor Visits

Update Date: Dec 13, 2013 01:46 PM EST

In order to increase one's overall wellbeing, being physically healthy and having a good mindset are vital. Several studies have tied both factors to reducing risks of illnesses. In a new study, a researcher from the University of Michigan is reporting that being happy can help reduce one's number of doctor visits.

"Satisfied adults may visit doctors less frequently because they are healthier, the result of being more socially engaged and supported, and maintaining healthier behaviors," researcher Eric Kim, a doctoral student in psychology at the University, said reported by Medical Xpress. "Most people think that health leads to higher life satisfaction. I believe this, too."

For this research, Kim worked with colleagues and examined the frequency of doctor visits in 6,329 older adults. The team looked at the data collected by the Health and Retirement Study during the time span from 2006 to 2010. The study gathered information on physical and mental health history from a nationally representative sample of seniors, who were aged 50 and above. The researchers measured happiness by asking the participants to agree or disagree with statements such as, "In most ways my life is close to ideal."

The researchers found that participants who reported higher levels of life satisfaction visited the doctor an average of 4.6 times a year. Doctor visits included clinic visits and emergency rooms. For people who had lower levels of life satisfaction, their number of doctor visits was higher at 6.3 times per year. When the researchers looked at the scale they used to measure happiness from one to six, six being the happiest, they found that a one-point increase on the scale translated to an 11 percent decrease in doctor visits.

"If these findings are consistently replicated and done so with a wide variety of methodologies, I think it can lead to some innovative ways of dealing with our continuously rising health care costs," Kim reasoned.

The researchers hope that their study and other studies could help create a new way of addressing the link between physical and mental health. If the health care system could promote one's psychological wellbeing, physical health could greatly improve, which could then reduce medical costs significantly.

The study was published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

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