How to live longer: Does this describe you? You may lead a long life

For most people, a long life is contingent on the choices they make along the way.

It is proven that maintaining a healthy diet and keeping active can ward off a wide-range of potentially life-threatening conditions.

Physical wellbeing is undeniably important, but growing evidence is shedding a light on the importance of psychological wellbeing too.

One study, published in Age and Ageing, found that happy older people live longer.

The study analysed the data on 4,478 participants of a nationally-representative survey to look at the association between happiness, assessed in the year 2009, and subsequent likelihood of dying due to any cause, until 31 December 2015.

The survey was focused on individuals’ aged 60 years and older living in Singapore.

Happiness was assessed by asking the survey participants how often in the past week they experienced the following: ‘I felt happy’, ‘I enjoyed life’ and ‘I felt hope about the future’.

Their responses were considered in two distinct ways; a ‘happiness score’, and a ‘binary happiness variable – Happy/Unhappy’.

A wide range of demographics, lifestyle choices, health and social factors were accounted for in the analysis.

The researchers found that among happy older people, 15 per cent passed away until 31 December 2015.

In contrast, the corresponding proportion was higher, at 20 per cent, among unhappy older people.

Every increase of one point on the happiness score lowered the chance of dying due to any cause among participants by an additional nine percent.

The likelihood of dying due to any cause was 19 per cent lower for happy older people.

Further, the inverse association of happiness with mortality was consistently present among men and women, and among the young-old (aged 60-79 years) and the old-old (aged 75 years or older).

The findings indicate that even small increments in happiness may be beneficial

Rahul Malhotra, Assistant Professor

“The findings indicate that even small increments in happiness may be beneficial to older people’s longevity,” explained Assistant Professor Rahul Malhotra, Head of Research at Duke-NUS’ Centre for Ageing Research and Education and senior author of the paper.

He added: “Therefore individual-level activities as well as government policies and programs that maintain or improve happiness or psychological well-being may contribute to a longer life among older people.”

The importance of psychological wellbeing was also echoed in another study published in Psychological Science, which found that having a spouse leads to a longer life.

“The data show that spousal life satisfaction was associated with mortality, regardless of individuals’ socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, or their physical health status,” says study author Olga Stavrova, a researcher at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

Notably, spouses’ life satisfaction was an even better predictor of participants’ mortality than participants’ own life satisfaction. Participants who had a happy partner at the beginning of the study were less likely to pass away over the next eight years compared with participants who had less happy partners.

“The findings underscore the role of individuals’ immediate social environment in their health outcomes. Most importantly, it has the potential to extend our understanding of what makes up individuals’ ‘social environment’ by including the personality and well-being of individuals’ close ones,” said Stavrova.

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