Subjective wellbeing and longevity: a co-twin control study

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2011 Jun;14(3):249-56. doi: 10.1375/twin.14.3.249.


Mental health is increasingly defined not only by the absence of illness but by the presence of subjective well-being (SWB). Previous cohort studies have consistently shown that indicators of SWB predict favorable life outcomes, including better mental and somatic health, and longevity. The favorable effects associated with SWB have prompted new research aimed at raising happiness and wellbeing through individual interventions and public health initiatives. Standard observational studies of individual-level associations, however, are subject to potential confounding of exposure and outcome by shared genes and environment. The present study explored the association between SWB and increased longevity, using twin pair analyses to determine whether the association is consistent with causality or is due to genetic or environmental confounding. The study sample of 3,966 twins aged 70 or older, followed for a median time period of 9 years, was drawn from the population-based Longitudinal Study of Aging Danish Twins (LSADT). The association between SWB, operationalized as affect and life satisfaction, and all-cause mortality risk was examined using between-individual and within-pair survival analyses. As expected, at the individual level, SWB predicted increased longevity. Exposure effects were also present in unadjusted and adjusted within-pair analyses of 400 dizygotic (DZ) pairs and 274 monozygotic (MZ) pairs, indicating that SWB is associated with increased longevity independent of familial factors of genes and shared environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Dizygotic / psychology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic / psychology