, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 449-469,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Healthy happiness: effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive health care

Abstract

Is happiness good for your health? This common notion is tested in a synthetic analysis of 30 follow-up studies on happiness and longevity. It appears that happiness does not predict longevity in sick populations, but that it does predict longevity among healthy populations So, happiness does not cure illness but it does protect against becoming ill. The effect of happiness on longevity in healthy populations is remarkably strong. The size of the effect is comparable to that of smoking or not.

If so, public health can also be promoted by policies that aim at greater happiness of a greater number. That can be done by strengthening individual life-abilities and by improving the livability of the social environment. Some policies are proposed. Both ways of promoting health through happiness require more research on conditions for happiness.

This study was done for ZonMw, the Netherlands’ organization for health research and development and reported in Dutch in Veenhoven 2006a.
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 3rd European Conference on Positive Psychology in Braga, Portugal, July 3–6, 2006 and the 7th conference of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies, in Grahamstown, South Africa, July 16–20