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Happy People Are Far Less Likely to Develop Heart Disease

Researchers say that happy people are significantly less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and heart attack.

Researchers at Columbia University took a look at data from a longitudinal study of subjects from Nova Scotia Canada and have found that:

  • People who are moderately happy are 22% less likely to develop heart disease than people who are unhappy
  • People who are very happy are 22% less likely to develop heart disease than people who are moderately happy

The researchers interviewed 1700 adults in Nova Scotia 10 years ago, asking about daily life experiences and such things as how stress was handled. They were on the lookout for joy, contentment, excitement, happiness and enthusiasm in every day life, and they developed a coding system that allowed them to quantify each subject’s personal happiness score.

After 10 years, those that were found to be moderately happy were far less likely to have developed heart disease (in all, 145 subjects developed heart disease) – and those that were coded as very happy were even less likely to have developed cardiovascular disease.

Lead researcher, psychologist Karina Davidson says that although the results seem to indicate that by improving happiness we reduce heart attack risk, that because the study is only observational in nature, she cannot say with certainty that interventions which might improve a person’s happiness would also improve their cardiovascular health.

Still, Davidson suggests adding enjoyable but heart healthy activities to a daily routine (rather than taking up smoking, for example!) and advises that people not wait for tomorrow to add pleasure to life, saying "Essentially spending a few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health and may improve your physical health as well."

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