Research Matters

Research Matters

Happiness = Health




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Does happiness equal health? A sweeping new investigation suggests that it does.

Aired March 22, 2009

2 minutes 3.7 MB) | Download mp3


Researcher Sarah Pressman, the Beatrice Wright assistant professor of psychology at KU and a Gallup research associate, has mined data from an ambitious worldwide survey from Gallup. Pressman found that positive emotions hold sway over health in all parts of the world - and in some parts more than others.

Pressman: "By working with Gallup, we were able to look at their world poll data. And what that does is it looks at about 95 percent of the planet by sampling 140 countries, with about one thousand people per country, and asks them questions about things - such as their subjective well being; whether or not they have a disease; whether or not the experience pain - and we were able to look across all theses 140 countries to see if the relationships between emotions and health are consistent around the world."

While the link between a positive outlook and good health already has been proven in the industrialized world, Pressman's research made the breakthrough discovery that the link is strongest among impoverished people, where little research has been carried out before.

Pressman: "The relationship between emotion and health was actually stronger in places that were doing worse. So in countries where they're only living into their Forties, places where they consistently go hungry, don't have shelter. In those places, positive emotion was actually more strongly connected to health. So there seems that there is something really key about emotions that seems to becomes even more important in the worst-off areas around the world."

Why does the KU researcher believe that emotions play a bigger role in health among the world's poorest people? Pressman says it all comes down to medical access.

Pressman: "Medicine really protects us in a lot ways, and maybe even down the relationship between emotion and health in first-nation countries. Because even if you're the most hostile, depressed person, you have medicine to help you. So you can go on statins and blood-pressure-lowering drugs and that kind of thing. But in a Third World country, you can't do that. So in that case when emotion affects your physiology and builds up over time you don't have anything to stop that from having an impact on your health."

For more on the happiness health link, log onto Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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Happiness = Health

A KU researcher has spearheaded a new investigation into the link between emotions and health. The research proves that positive emotions are critical for upkeep of physical health for people worldwide, above all for those who are deeply impoverished.

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