Happiness and Death

iStock_000061359348_MediumDoes being generally unhappy make you more likely to die?  Many people, ranging from new age types to medical professionals, have extolled the virtues of a positive outlook on improving health outcomes to actually  avoiding developing health problems in the first place. Indeed, our culture of happiness is so entrenched that some studies have reported cancer patients feeling guilty about their negative stance on life and its impact on their disease.  Now, as Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week and as published in the Lancet, comes a study that seems to dispel this relationship.

This investigation was part of the UK Million Women Study. Subjects were queried on feelings of stress, control. relaxation, health, and happiness.  One in six reported unhappiness, with smoking, lack of exercise, not living with a partner, and poor health associated with unhappiness.  Ten years later, after correcting for the lifestyle and health factors that were already present, the death rate for those who rated themselves unhappy was the same as that for those who identified as happy. Researchers explain this finding as a failure of previous studies to account for the impact on poor health on happiness.  As for Rick and me, we're adopting the mien 'don't worry, be happy' for 2016.  Other topics this week include too much measurement of hemoglobin A1c in those with type 2 diabetes in the BMJ, androgen deprivation and dementia risk in JCO, and a new drug for sickle cell disease in NEJM.  Until next week, y'all live well.

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