Scientists Say, Happier Life Means Longer Life
Based on data by WHO, the average life expectancy in the world accounts for 71 years. This indicator varies depending on gender (the average length of a woman’s life in the world is 73.5 years, and a man’s – 68.5), country of residence (the first place is Hong Kong, where women live on average 87.3 years, and men – 81 years), as well as many other factors. Heredity plays a certain role as well; on average, doctors and scientists estimate the degree of influence of heredity on life expectancy at 25-30%. Yet, still, our longevity is predominantly determined by how we take care of our health, what we eat and drink, how often we go in for sports, and even how happy we are.
Does happiness help living longer?
In 2016, a team of researchers from University College, London published the results of a study that confirmed that the more we are content with our life, the longer we want to stick around. And the amazing thing is, we tend to cope better with this mission.
A study called “Sustained enjoyment of life and mortality at older ages: analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging,” with results published in BMJ, has lasted for fourteen years. During this time, scientists monitored the health status of almost 10 thousand volunteers. By the time the study began, most of them were 50 years old or more. From 2002 to 2016, the authors of the experiment monitored not only how good or bad the volunteers felt, but also how satisfied they were with their lives and how happy they considered themselves.
They came up with astounding results: the healthier and happier the subjects felt, the bigger their chances were to live a long life. During the experiment, 1,300 volunteers died, that’s about every tenth person. In all three surveys that were filled in by the participants, most of these subjects noted their dissatisfaction with life.
Among those who complained about life, one of three in our survey, the chances of a long life increased by 17%. On the other hand, those who were completely satisfied with their life and who they were, were likely to enjoy it as long as possible, increased by 24%.
Of course, the authors of the study do not try to convince us that the ability to enjoy life is the key to longevity, yet it is counterintuitive to dismiss this correlation, as well. It is logical to assume that not suffering from chronic diseases in the elder years, enables people to lead a more active lifestyle, maybe continue working and feeling needed, and of course not having serious diseases, technically, is the fundamental condition for longer life. But in any case, the results of this study are a sufficient reason to test the hypothesis. And who knows, maybe after a while, in all medical recommendations, along with the wishes for a healthier diet, and an active lifestyle, doctors will recommend, “We advise you to try to enjoy life more often and try to become a little bit happier.”
What is the secret to happiness?
Every one of us has her/his unique, individually predetermined concept of happiness. Nevertheless, there are common habits and activities that are found to be effective in helping us feel happier, and more content, and even increase our level of happiness. Here are seven simple things to do and get a little happier:
- Have meals in thе open air
Sometimes, an ordinary boring sandwich you chew on the bench in the park or at the river contributes to the feeling of happiness, a way more effectively than the most sophisticated dinner in a restaurant. According to a small study carried out by scientists at the University of Sussex, those people who spent their lunchtime outside their office, in the fresh air, showed a happiness score of 17; while those who were used to having lunch at their desk the score was only 1,5.
- More sex
The scientists from the University of Colorado have made another surprising finding on happiness. The analysis of the data collected in the survey has shown that respondents who had sex at least two to three times a month were 33% more likely to report a higher level of happiness, than those who had no sex during the previous twelve months. You can find the study “The secret to happiness? Believing you have more SEX than your neighbours” here.
By the way, an important addition in the level of happiness rises by the same 33%, if you believe that you have sex more often than your friends and acquaintances.
- Eat meat
The Australian researchers have conducted an experiment “Red meat halves risk of depression,” where more than 1000 women took part. The findings were surprising. Three to four servings of beef or lamb per week cut the risk of depression and anxiety in women by half. Scientists believe it can be attributed to the fact that the meat of animals who feed on grass is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Play video games
Video games turned out to have a capacity for not only decreasing but also eliminating the symptoms of depression. Such was the conclusion drawn by the authors of a survey among adult and elderly gamers “Successful aging through digital games: Socioemotional differences between older adult gamers and Non-gamers.” 67% of those surveyed, whose average age was 77 years old, answered that playing computer and video games makes them feel happier and their life is filled with meaning and new emotions.
- Walk in the forest
Exactly! Evergreens have the best effect. Besides the fact that walking in the fresh air and interacting with nature helps us to get rid of stress and chillax, the scent of pine needles, in itself, makes us a little happier. According to the results of a study conducted by specialists from Kyoto University “Psychological effects of forest environments on healthy adults: Shinrin-yoku (forest-air bathing, walking) as a possible method of stress reduction,” the smell of conifers reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety and increases the feelings of life satisfaction.
What else can we do?
Apart from classical recommendations such as moving more during the day, paying attention to what and how much you eat, eating clean, not neglecting regular medical checkups, science can suggest a few more ideas for a longer life. These are simple recommendations but when developed into habits they may bring about a considerable results.
- Learn new stuff
The more new information we come across and process, the more practice we provide for our cognitive powers. The more skills we acquire and the more willingly we share the knowledge with others, the more energized, fulfilled, and rewarded we feel, and the healthier and more agile our brain becomes. And even if it does not increase the number of years lived, it definitely prolongs the period of active life, which is no less fantastic. The research from 2013, “The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: The Synapse Project“ has proven, that people who tried to learn something new, significantly improved their memor, were more active, and lived longer.
- Eat berries
Try to eat at least one serving of berries a day — fresh, frozen, dried, or as a jam. Moreover, the most beneficial effect came from blackberries. Their skin and juice contain more unique antioxidants that help us maintain the neutron connections, necessary to preserve brain cognitive functions. On top of that, these antioxidants contribute to the effective resistance to inflammatory processes within the body and prevent the development of diseases that affect life expectancy.
- Laugh more
Do you remember that quote by Lord Byron — ‘Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine’? It is ironic, of course, yet its key message is not far from the truth: laughter can help lower blood pressure, relieve stress, support your immune system in crunch times, and ultimately help you live longer. So do not miss the opportunity to have a good laugh — it is not only a pleasure that unites us all and helps break the ice, but it is also healthy.
- The Sun is not always an enemy
Of course, everything that concerns our health and wellbeing has to be taken in consideration, but within reason. Ultraviolet light is dangerous because it can trigger skin cancer. Yet to cancel the sun out of your life would not be smart. Research on the effect of the sun on life expectancy “Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort” has proved that those women who regularly spent time and played sports outdoors ended up at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those participants who played sports only indoors.
- Drink coffee
Caffeine helps reduce the risk of dangerous diseases that affect life expectancy, such as Type 2 diabetes. Specialists in ten countries have conducted a study “Coffee Drinking and Mortality in 10 European Countries,” where they came to the conclusion that two or three cups of coffee a day indeed can help us live longer. Of course, everything is not that simple: your coffee must to be black, with no sugar, no cream, and, of course, no dessert! This sounds sad.
Dancing is an excellent physical activity, and we should never forget that movement and moving naturally becomes more important for our health, as we grow older. Dancing also helps us maintain a good mood and even strengthens social bonds. Again, this is especially important, at an older age. We can refer to a study from 2017 known as “Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors,” which proved that dancing helps to increase the volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for our cognitive abilities. So even if dancing does not prolong life, it helps us maintain a sharp mind and a solid memory until very old age.
And they lived happily ever after
And why not? Unfortunately, despite all the scientific advances and discoveries in extending the lifetime and fighting to age, we are unlikely to live to see the invention of the magic anti-aging pill, but we can do something right now. An active lifestyle, optimism, communication, neverending learning, making plans for the future, dreaming and believing in the better, regardless of how old we are, is all it takes. A fulfilling life is what makes it all worthwhile because whatever long it is, a happy life is beautiful!
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