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Happier People Stay Healthier

Happiness may be a key to staying healthy
in old age. A new long-term study involving
nearly 3,200 people ages 60 and older
found that those who enjoy life are better
able to handle physical activities such as
eating, getting dressed, and showering; the}
even walk faster. By contrast, the unhappiest
people were about 80 percent more
likely to have trouble with the routines of
daily living. “This is not because the happier
people are in better health, or richer,
or have more healthy lifestyles at the outset,
since even when we take these factors
into account, the relationship persists,”
says Dr. Andrew Steptoe of University College
London. To quantify study participants’ contentment,
researchers asked them to rate how much
they agreed with statements such as “ I
enjoy the things that I do” and “I enjoy
being in the company of others.” They then
interviewed participants to assess their difficulty
in negotiating daily activities. Over
the eight years of the study, only 4 percent
of people who enjoyed life the most developed
problems in handling daily activities,
compared with 17 percent of those who
showed the least enjoyment.