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The science of happiness: happier people are healthier

02 Feb 2011 | Kaiser Permanente

Look back at the past month and consider: Have you been happy? Overall, how satisfied are you with your life? Take note of your answers, because they could predict your future health.

A study of nearly 10,000 people found that, 2 years later, those with higher rates of happiness and life satisfaction reported 50 percent better health and less long-term, limiting health conditions. Another long-term study of nuns discovered that those who wrote autobiographies reflecting happiness, love, and hope at a young age had a 2.5 times lower risk of dying early than their gloomier young counterparts.

"Happier people tend to be healthier," says David Sobel, MD, medical director of Health Education for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. "Research now shows that people who express positive emotions like joy, cheerfulness, and enthusiasm are 22 percent less likely to develop heart disease over the next 10 years."

Dr. Sobel adds, "This doesn't mean they will never have heart attacks, but science proves that smiling and cheerfulness are linked to heart protection."

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