Happy people live longer because they are healthy people

BMC Geriatr. 2023 Jul 18;23(1):440. doi: 10.1186/s12877-023-04030-w.


Objectives: Higher levels of happiness are associated with longer life expectancy. Our study assessed the extent to which various factors explain the protective effect of happiness on all-cause mortality risk, and whether the association differs between older men and women.

Methods: Using data from the Singapore Longitudinal Aging Studies (N = 6073) of community-dwelling older adults aged ≥ 55 years, we analyzed the association of baseline Likert score of happiness (1 = very sad to 5 = very happy) and mortality from mean 11.7 years of follow up. Cox regression models were used to assess the extent to which confounding risk factors attenuated the hazard ratio of association in the whole sample and sex-stratified analyses.

Results: Happiness was significantly associated with lower mortality (p < .001) adjusted for age, sex and ethnicity: HR = 0.85 per integer score and HR = 0.57 for fairly-or-very happy versus fairly-or-very sad. The HR estimate (0.90 per integer score) was modestly attenuated (33.3%) in models that included socio-demographic and support, lifestyle or physical health and functioning factor, but remained statistically significant. The HR estimate (0.94 per integer score) was substantially attenuated (60%) and was insignificant in the model that included psychological health and functioning. Including all co-varying factors in the model resulted in statistically insignificant HR estimate (1.04 per integer score). Similar results were obtained for HR estimates for fairly-to-very happy versus fairly-to- very sad).

Discussion: Much of the association between happiness and increased life expectancy could be explained by socio-demographic, lifestyle, health and functioning factors, and especially psychological health and functioning factors.

Keywords: Happiness; Longevity; Mortality; Positive affect; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Risk Factors