Monday, April 18, 2005

Researchers said to find out how happiness relates to health

Researchers said to find out how happiness relates to health

Happiness may be related to the functioning of the body in key processes, such as those of the cardiovascular system and those controlling hormone levels, researchers have found.

Previous studies have shown that depressed people often have more health problems, while happier people tend to live longer. Yet the mechanism of these effects has been unclear.

To look more closely at this psychobiological connection, Andrew Steptoe of University College London, U.K., and colleagues studied emotions and health of more than 200 middle-aged Londoners in their daily lives.

The researchers found that those who reported more everyday happiness had healthier biological functions in a few key systems. For one, the happier subjects had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone related to conditions such as type II diabetes and hypertension.

Happier individuals also showed lower responses to stress in plasma fibrinogen levels, a protein that in high concentrations often signals future problems with coronary heart disease.

Finally, happy men had lower heart rates over the day and evening, which suggests good cardiovascular health. These results were independent of psychological distress, the authors say, which implies that positive well-being is directly related to the biological processes relevant to health.

The finding is to be published in an upcoming issue of the research journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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