Summary: A new study reveals subjective well-being can have an influence on physical health.
A new review indicates that subjective well-being—factors such as life satisfaction and enjoyment of life—can influence physical health. The review’s investigators also examine why this is so and conditions where it is most likely to occur.
Subjective well-being may exert its effects on physical health through health behaviors, as well as through the immune and cardiovascular systems. Although scientists still are exploring and debating when happiness most affects health, there is no doubt that it can do so.
With more research, it may one day be informative for clinicians to monitor individuals’ subjective well-being just as other factors are currently assessed. Individuals should also take responsibility for their health by developing happy mental habits.
“We now have to take very seriously the finding that happy people are healthier and live longer, and that chronic unhappiness can be a true health threat. People’s feelings of well-being join other known factors for health, such as not smoking and getting exercise,” said Prof. Ed Diener, co-author of the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being article. “Scores of studies show that our levels of happiness versus stress and depression can influence our cardiovascular health, our immune system strength to fight off diseases, and our ability to heal from injuries.”
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Original Research: Full open access research for “If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research” by Ed Diener, Sarah D. Pressman, John Hunter and Desiree Delgadillo-Chase in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Published online July 14 2017 doi:10.1111/aphw.12090
If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research
We review evidence on whether subjective well-being (SWB) can influence health, why it might do so, and what we know about the conditions where this is more or less likely to occur. This review also explores how various methodological approaches inform the study of the connections between subjective well-being and health and longevity outcomes. Our review of this growing literature indicates areas where data are substantial and where much more research is needed. We conclude that SWB can sometimes influence health, and review a number of reasons why it does so. A key open question is when it does and does not do so—in terms of populations likely to be affected, types of SWB that are most influential (including which might be harmful), and types of health and illnesses that are most likely to be affected. We also describe additional types of research that are now much needed in this burgeoning area of interest, for example, cross-cultural studies, animal research, and experimental interventions designed to raise long-term SWB and assess the effects on physical health. This research area is characterised both by potentially extremely important findings, and also by pivotal research issues and questions.
“If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research” by Ed Diener, Sarah D. Pressman, John Hunter and Desiree Delgadillo-Chase in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Published online July 14 2017 doi:10.1111/aphw.12090