Why should we be Happy? Importance of Subjective Wellbeing (SWB)

Happiness makes for long life and makes it worth living- Sirach 30:20

For ages, we have known that people with depression and anxiety negatively affect their cardiovascular and immunological functioning. But is the opposite true? Let us look at it.

Question 1. Do people with more positive emotions live longer and healthier? Chida and Steptoe (2008) reported in a meta-analysis that positive psychological well-being was related to lower mortality and higher longevity in healthy and diseased populations, independently of negative affect. Positive moods such as joy, happiness, and energy and characteristics such as life satisfaction, hopefulness, optimism, and sense of humor were associated with reduced mortality risk in healthy populations. The graph below, taken from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) for over 8.5 years, demonstrates the fact that those in the higher quartile (Blue) of Subjective Well-being are living longer than those in the lowest quartile of SWB (Red). 

Question 2. Can SWB improve people’s chances of surviving existing illnesses? The results on survival are mixed, with some studies (Cardiovascular in particular) showing that high SWB increases the likelihood of survival from certain diseases and other studies showing no effect. However, the evidence is mixed when it comes to cancer or acute infectious illness, with uncertain overall support at this time. You do not want to be irrationally optimistic when choosing the right treatment for complex medical conditions.

Question 3. Why should I be in pursuit of happiness? Positive affect is associated with protective psychosocial and behavioral factors such as greater social connectedness, perceived social support, optimism, preference for adaptive coping responses, and a greater probability of performing positive health behaviors. Cross-cultural research has documented associations with positive affect mixed with exercising regularly, not smoking, and a prudent diet, making you live longer and make your life worth living, as quoted above.

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