The power of positive emotions: it's a matter of life or death--subjective well-being and longevity over 28 years in a general population

Health Psychol. 2010 Jan;29(1):9-19. doi: 10.1037/a0016767.


Objective: This study longitudinally examined Subjective Well-Being (SWB) and its components, namely, Positive Feelings (PF, including global life satisfaction [GLS]), domain life satisfaction [DLS], and positive affect [PA]) as well as Negative Feelings (NF) as predictors of longevity in a general population.

Design: Data from the Alameda County Study over 28 years (1965-1993, N = 6856) were analyzed with multivariate Cox Proportional Hazard Models.

Main outcome measures: Longevity, evaluated by risks of all-cause, natural-cause, and unnatural-cause mortality.

Results: After demographic and baseline health covariates were controlled, SWB, PF, GLS, and DLS significantly predicted lowered risks of all-cause and natural-cause mortality (Relative Risk per unit predictor increase [RR] ranged .904-.989, p values ranged .000-.05). SWB, PF, and GLS also significantly predicted lowered risk of unnatural-cause mortality (RR ranged .862-.961, p values ranged .014-.05). These associations seemed partially or completely mediated by social networks. The associations were also found separately in younger (<55 in age) and/or older (>or=55) subsamples, and were especially salient in the healthy subsample. However, NF showed no associations with the mortality outcomes.

Conclusion: SWB and its various positive components, but not NF, significantly predict longevity in the general population.

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Attitude
  • Expressed Emotion*
  • Humans
  • Longevity*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Population Surveillance
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Social Support