Effects of Happiness on All-Cause Mortality During 15 Years of Follow-Up: The Arnhem Elderly Study

Abstract

Positive psychological characteristics may be beneficial for physical health. However, prospective data on the effects of happiness on survival is scarce. In a population-based cohort study, the Arnhem Elderly Study, happiness was measured by two items, being: “I have many moments of happiness” and “I often laugh happily”. In Cox proportional hazard models, happiness was analyzed as a predictor of 15 year all-cause mortality for 861 (85%) of 1,012 elderly subjects aged 65–85 years. Results showed that happiness was inversely associated with mortality (age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratio of 0.78 for happy subjects versus unhappy subjects; 95% confidence interval 0.64–0.95, P = 0.01 for trend), but that this relationship was no longer statistically significant after adjustment for physical activity and prevalent morbidity. Thus, happiness predicts for lower mortality, which may partly be mediated by more physical activity and lower morbidity.

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Acknowledgments

This study was part of the research program Lifestyle and Health in the Elderly supported by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport (The Hague, The Netherlands).

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Correspondence to Erik J. Giltay.

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Koopmans, T.A., Geleijnse, J.M., Zitman, F.G. et al. Effects of Happiness on All-Cause Mortality During 15 Years of Follow-Up: The Arnhem Elderly Study. J Happiness Stud 11, 113–124 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-008-9127-0

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Keywords

  • Happiness
  • Longevity
  • Elderly subjects
  • Cohort study
  • Physical activity
  • Illnesses