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Study Finds Happiness Doesn't Guarantee Longer Life
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Study Finds Happiness Doesn't Guarantee Longer Life

Science

Study Finds Happiness Doesn't Guarantee Longer Life

Study Finds Happiness Doesn't Guarantee Longer Life
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A recent study finds that being happy doesn't always mean living longer.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

For the unhappy people among us who are inclined to yell...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HAPPY GILMORE")

ADAM SANDLER: (As Happy Gilmore) Are you too good for your home? Answer me.

MCEVERS: ...Or call people names...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION")

CHEVY CHASE: (As Clark) Cheap lying no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking...

MCEVERS: ...And generally be angry.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FULL METAL JACKET")

R. LEE ERMEY: (As Gny. Sgt. Hartman) Now let me see your war face.

MATTHEW MODINE: (As Pvt. J.T. "Joker" Davis, screaming).

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Well, have we got news for you. Being happy...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET HAPPY")

JUDY GARLAND: (Singing) Forget your troubles. Come on. Get happy.

CORNISH: ...Won't necessarily make you live longer. At least that's according to a recent study published this week in The Lancet.

RICHARD PETO: It's good news for the grumpy.

MCEVERS: That's Richard Peto. He's professor of medical statistics at the University of Oxford and one of the report's co-authors. Peto and his colleagues initially set out to study the effects of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy in women, but they came across other findings.

CORNISH: They followed 1 million middle-aged British women over the course of 10 years, tracking their health and overall well-being.

PETO: What they smoked, what diseases they had and also whether they were happy or not, whether they were stressed or not, relaxed, in control. And we found whether you were happy, whether you were stressed made no difference.

MCEVERS: And Peto says the results didn't surprise him.

PETO: You know, there's a pathetic old joke about what's the most dangerous place in the world. And the answer is bed. Look at the number of people who die in bed. Well, that's reverse-causality, obviously. It's the illness causing the bed, not the bed causing illness. And it's the same with stress and unhappiness. It's reverse-causality. It's illness causing the state of mind, not the state of mind directly causing illness.

CORNISH: Now, Peto says there are some exceptions, like if your unhappiness leads to dangerous behavior. But for the most part, being stressed and mad and frustrated isn't really all that bad.

PETO: You can worry, but it isn't going to kill you. You don't have to worry about it killing you.

CORNISH: And that may be something to be happy about.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOTEL HAPPINESS")

BROOK BENTON: (Singing) I'm checking out of hotel loneliness. All my lonely days, they are all through. I'm checking into hotel happiness because darling, I found you. I left my teardrops...

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