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What defines a good life? If in answering this question you included happiness in your list, you are not alone. Indeed, the pursuit and enjoyment of happiness is a common goal and desire in life for most people. Adults of all ages, including those in old age, frequently report the experience of happiness as a determinant of a good life.1 Since both happiness and health are crucial aspects of quality of life, medical work about the potential positive effects of happiness on a person's health and longevity is a growing area that has received increasing attention in the past decade.
In The Lancet, Bette Liu and colleagues2 use data from a cohort of women in the UK Million Women Study, mean age 60 years, to examine whether happiness was associated with good health and with reduced mortality risk after an average follow-up of about 10 years. The strongest correlates of unhappiness were treatment for depression and anxiety (odds ratio [OR] 0·224 [99% group-specific CI 0·218–0·229]) and self-reported poor health (OR 0·298 [0·293–0·303]). In crude analyses of 719 671 women without chronic health disorders from the cohort, unhappiness was significantly associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality (age-adjusted rate ratio [RR] 1·29, 95% CI 1·25–1·33). However, in multivariate regression models adjusted for age, personal characteristics, treatment for illnesses, and self-reported health (the key factor) there was no significant association (0·98, 0·94–1·01)./.../