A report in The Telegraph dt.12 Dec. comes as a huge relief for the perennially perturbed. Worry does not kill or cause ill-health. It is ill-health that causes worry. So if you are usually grumpy, figure out if there is any underlying physiological or psychological cause. In case there is, go all out to cure the cause. If no such problem has been diagnosed, continue to be happy by being unhappy!
Being unhappy won't kill you, study finds
A study of one million women says poor health makes people unhappy - not the other way round
By Laura Donnelly, Health Editor
Being unhappy or stressed does not increase the risk of ill-health and happy souls are no more likely to live longer, a major study has found.
The research on one million women, published in the Lancet, said the widespread belief that stress causes ill-health came from studies that had confused cause and effect.
The new study found that those in poor health were more likely to be unhappy – but that this was because of the illness they were suffering.
The 10 year project found no evidence that stress or unhappiness in themselves had any impact on mortality.
Study lead author Dr Bette Liu, of the University of New South Wales in Australia, said: "Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill.
"We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a 10-year study of a million women."
The research, published in The Lancet, tracked the women over three years and then asked to rate their happiness.
Five out of six of the women surveyed said they were generally happy.
The women who were least happy were those who smoked, didn't do enough exercise and didn't live with a partner.
The strongest associations, however, were that the women who were already in poor health tended to say that they were unhappy, stressed, not in control, and not relaxed. This was true for overall mortality, for cancer mortality, and for heart disease mortality.
Researchers said other studies had that unhappiness decreased life-expectancy, when in fact it did not.
"It's good news for grumpy people because they don't have to add to their misery the fact that they might be killing themselves"
Professor Sir Richard Peto, Oxford University
However behaviours linked to unhappiness –such as smoking, bingeing on unhealthy foods, and lack of exercise – still increase the risk of an early death.
Co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto, of Oxford University, said: "It's good news for grumpy people because they don't have to add to their misery the fact that they might be killing themselves.
"If stress makes you do something that's destructive then that leads to problems. Of itself it's not damaging.”
The main analyses included 700 000 women, with an average age of 59 years, who were tracked during a decade, during which time 30 000 died.
After allowing for any differences already present in health and lifestyle, the overall death rate among those who were unhappy was the same as the death rate among those who were generally happy.
The study is so large that it rules out unhappiness being a direct cause of any material increase in overall mortality, in women, researchers said.
He said the study was important because people often blamed themselves for illness, thinking that a positive attitude could have saved them
"There are a lot of urban myths,” he said. “People need to know that getting ill is not your fault, but illness can make you unhappy.”
Previous studies which linked happiness and low stress to lower mortality had not allowed properly for the strong effect of ill health on unhappiness and on stress, researcher said.
Prof Peto said: "Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the UK Million Women Study shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rate."