Key to Living Longer: Enjoy Life!

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Study finds enjoying life leads to living longer
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Researchers of a new study say that enjoying life and having a positive attitude has health benefits that can slow down the aging process.

The study follows up on previous research from last year that found an association between happiness and physical performance. Published in the Canadian Medical Association, this new study confirmed that happy people function better physically and walk faster than their less happy counterparts.

For the study, participants were asked to rank on a scale of 1 to 4 the truthfulness of the following four statements with respect to them:

1) "I enjoy the things that I do";
2) "I enjoy being in the company of others";
3) "On balance, I look back on my life with a sense of happiness"; and:
4) “I feel full of energy these days.”

The researchers then questioned the participants further, asking them how well they performed certain routine activities like getting dressed and bathing. In addition, the participants had their walking speed tested.

As a result, the researchers found that the participants with a lower degree of well-being were over three times more likely to struggle while performing routine activities on a daily basis

Study co-author Dr. Steptoe said that these results offer additional evidence to support that enjoying life is an important factor in helping old people stay healthy, especially as it concerns “the future disability and mobility of older people." Dr. Steptoe added that making a concerted effort to improve well-being as people age could also benefit society, as well as health care systems.

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Predictably, the study noted that chronic illness had a negative impact on a person’s quality of life and well-being. By the same token, Dr. Steptoe pointed out that happier individuals in good physical shape does not necessarily mean that they’re automatically any healthier.

Rather, the study found that older people who simply enjoy life more have a greater likelihood of surviving over the next 8 years. They also tend to maintain greater physical function, as well as their walking speed.

Dr. Steptoe also mentioned that they “are less likely to develop impairments in activities of daily living,” such as getting out of bed, getting dressed and other routine tasks.

In a previous study by Dr. Steptoe, nearly three times more participants over the age of 50 who experienced less enjoyment had died versus those who had a high enjoyment of life.

That study took into account other factors that contributed to a loss of enjoyment in life, including social isolation among older people and having a lack of hobbies and social interaction.

Conducted in England, the results of the study found that 1 in 6 people in their 50s living there were socially isolated – however, it was also found that those seniors who were financially better off were 50 percent less likely to be socially isolated than those who were poor.

The same socioeconomic results were confirmed in the new study, with those who were wealthier and more educated being the most likely to enjoy life. If the seniors in the study were married and employed as well, it only further boosted their “happiness” scale than those who were single or otherwise retired from work.

SOURCE: Enjoyment of life and declining physical function at older ages: a longitudinal cohort study, Andrew Steptoe, et al., CMAJ, doi: 10.1503/cmaj.131155, published online 20 January 2014

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