While there are some things that cannot be prevented with old age, research shows that happy seniors enjoy improved mobility and live longer than their more sour peers per a study out of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London.
While being happy does not enhance or preserve one’s physical capabilities, happier people do tend to be more active and healthier, which is linked to increased mobility, even in older individuals. Though the reverse is also true (healthier people also tend to be happier), scientists say that’s not the explanation per the National Monitor. Happiness certainly is important, regardless of health.
“We have previously shown that positive well-being and enjoyment of life are predictors of longer life,” said study author Andrew Steptoe. “Older people who report greater enjoyment are less likely to die over the next five to eight years than those with lower enjoyment of life.”
The study followed approximately 3,200 men and women aged 50 and up over the span of eight years and periodically surveyed them to determine their levels of happiness. Of those who reported getting the most out of life, only 4% reported developing problems with everyday physical activities. Among those that indicated the lowest satisfaction levels, the instances of difficulties more than quadrupled, increased that percentage to 17%. Those who were happier also showed a slower decline in walking speed.
“These associations could be due to many things: the people with greater enjoyment of life could be more affluent, have less physical illness or disability to start with, or have healthier lifestyles at the outset, and these factors could predict the changes in physical function over time,” Steptoe said. “But what we found is that baseline health, economic circumstances and lifestyle explain only about half the association between enjoyment of life and deterioration in function. So there is more to it than that.”
The results show that while happiness and enjoyment of life clearly show for something, scientists have yet to establish anything beyond a correlation between happiness and health. Whether healthy people are just happy to have their good health or happiness is a driver of that good health, it’s clear that happy seniors definitely go farther in life.