"Everything else being equal, if you are happy and satisfied with your life now, you are more likely to be healthy in the future. Importantly, our results are independent of several factors that impact on health, such as smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and age," said lead author Mohammad Siahpush, Ph.D.
Siahpush is a professor of health promotion at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The study appears in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.
The researchers looked at data from two waves of an Australian survey conducted in 2001 and 2004. Nearly 10,000 adults responded to items about health indicators including the presence of long-term, limiting health conditions and physical health.
They used the question, "During the past four weeks, have you been a happy person?" to assess happiness.
They determined satisfaction with life by asking: "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life?"
"We found strong evidence that both happiness and life satisfaction have an effect on our indicators of health," Siahpush said.
Happiness and life satisfaction at the baseline survey were both associated with (1) excellent, good or very good health; (2) the absence of long-term, limiting health concerns and (3) higher levels of physical health three years later.
In addition, the results suggested that improving happiness or life satisfaction might also result in better future health.
"There are indications that as you become happier and more satisfied with your life, you tend to become healthier as well," Siahpush said.