Do happier people live longer?

I am no doctor, psychologist or research scientist so the following blog is written not from a scientific point of view but from my own experience, observations and readings over a long period of time.

I have always enjoyed physical activity, whether it be running, biking, surfing or paddling. I have found that over the years if I feel a little moody, down in the dumps or stressed that going for a surf, bike ride or run will wash away all those feelings. I find that after the activity I am a less stressed, happier and nicer person to be around.

So why is this the case?

Endorphins are the answer. This hormone is released from the pituitary gland of the brain during periods of strenuous exercise, emotional stress and pain. Endorphins help relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria.

I am not going to even attempt to explain the scientific reasons for this phenomenon, all I do know is that this “runner’s rush” as it sometimes is called is real and can prove to be a wonderful non-addictive narcotic.

This rush of endorphins leading to feelings of happiness takes us to the next connection: a happy person is also a healthier person.

There are numerous studies showing that a happy person is less likely to suffer from colds and flu, heart attacks and strokes, high blood pressure, the list of ailments is very long.

Happy people normally have a large group of friends and therefore a larger support network. Happy people also take far better care of themselves.

Now, I will get a little scientific for just one minute. People who are happy and positive tend to have higher levels of Immunoglobulin A, a key immune system protein and one of the body’s primary defences against respiratory illness.

This all leads to the final link and conclusion – a happy person will live a longer life.

Professor Erdman B Palmore from Duke University, conducted a study that showed happiness could add 16 years to the life of a man and 23 years to the life of a woman. As to why there is such a difference is not explained and I am certainly not going to put forward a theory in this blog.

This, of course is a very simple argument and will not always be the case. A person’s life expectancy can depend on their genetic make-up, other health factors such as smoking, drinking and lifestyle choices. However, it is certainly worth remembering when we do feel a little worse for wear that remaining happy and positive will add years to your life.

So what are the alternatives if my ability to be active is limited; what are my other options to help release the “endorphins” to increase my feelings of contentment to reduce my stress;

  1. Meditation
  2. Pilates
  3. Yoga
  4. Childbirth – not for all
  5. Alcohol – in moderation
  6. Chili
  7. Acupuncture
  8. Massage
  9. Getting your ears or other body parts pierced – a little desperate
  10. Ultra violet light – not an easy option
  11. Sex – no comment

The good news for the retirees and pre-retirees such as myself, I have not been able to find any evidence that would suggest that as you age the ability to produce endorphins diminishes.

So regardless of your age this regular flood of endorphins will make you a lot happier, less stressed and a lot more contented with your life.

So, as PK and I have always stated; Retirement is a time to relax but not necessarily a time to sit around and do nothing, especially as you are still able to produce waves of those wonderful hormones “endorphins” to help you lead a healthy and longer life.

If you have thoughts on this we would love to hear from you. Please provide feedback in the ‘comments’ box.


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