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Happiness, social well-being tied to longevity

November 19, 2012

There has been a considerable amount of research over the years tying a person's mental health to their physical well-being, and a new study provides some compelling evidence in support of the strongly-held notion. Scientists from Emory University found people who report being happy and functioning well in their lives are about 60 percent less likely to die prematurely than others.

The findings, which were published recently in the American Journal of Public Health, were based on the responses of 3,000 people in the Midlife in the United States Survey. The questions focused on whether they had experienced feelings of depression and anxiety in the year before the survey. Participants were also assessed for their ability to manage stress and work productively with others.

Researchers noticed there was a distinct correlation between people who met the criteria for flourishing - which combines both emotional and social well-being - and increased longevity. This was true regardless of age, which highlights the roles emotional and social factors play in healthy aging.

"What was most amazing to me was that the results held for all ages," said lead author Corey Keyes, a sociologist at Emory University. "Even late in life, if you are flourishing you are significantly less likely to die prematurely."

There are a variety of ways older adults can improve their emotional and social health once they have retired. Exercise has proven to be one of the best options, because it can not only stimulate the creation of feel-good chemicals, known as endorphins, in the brain, but it is a staple of a healthy lifestyle for seniors.