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Happiness and Health

Health and happiness are two basic pillars that most people agree constitute a good life. And the two turn out to be more intertwined than one might think. The question of whether one causes the other or if the two are only correlated is difficult to tease apart, but there's no doubt that a strong connection exists.

The Physical Benefits of Happiness

Researchers have pinned down connections between happiness and more specific aspects of health, such as the immune response we mount in response to a virus or how long our lives will ultimately be.

It’s difficult to distinguish the direction between health and happiness. Does a happy person also have better health care and stronger relationships, which benefits their health? Does dealing with a chronic illness consistently worsen mood? Researchers aim to control for these questions, but the direction will always be challenging to say for certain.

What are the physical benefits of happiness?

Happiness is associated with an array of physical health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, reduced risk of stroke, a stronger immune system, and even a longer life. Positive emotions are also linked to a reduced risk of injury in young adults and frailty in older adults.

Do happier people live longer?

Yes, happiness is correlated with a longer lifespan. People who report feeling a stronger sense of happiness and well-being live longer, on average, than do  those who report weaker feelings, and the effect exists for both men and women.

How Health Affects Happiness

Health and happiness broadly overlap, but there are also narrower ways in which health can boost well-being. The foods we consume, the exercise we do, and the diseases we face all play a role.

Does health lead to happiness?

There are various theories for why health may lead to happiness. Some research suggests that when people take better care of themselves, they come to feel happier. Some research suggests that people who are healthier just have a more positive outlook. Still other research suggests that an underlying factor such as genetics or personality contributes to both.

Why do I feel happy after I exercise?

Exercise prompts the body to produce endorphins and enkephalins, hormones that relieve pain and boost pleasure. These chemicals are responsible for the feeling of a “runner’s high.” Exercise also shifts our focus away from current concerns and damaging self-talk and leads us to spend time outside or with others.

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