You might have thought that grumpy old people lived longer (and past research has supported that idea) but it now seems that older people who are satisfied with life are much less likely to die earlier.
Having a sense of purpose and control in life can protect against disease by lowering stress levels or blood pressure according to researchers at UCL.
Pyscho-neuro-immunologists have known for some time that feeling stressed all the time can impair your immune system and leave you more susceptible to illness. So improving people’s sense of well-being can also improve physical health.
People are least satisfied in middle age and only regain their youthful levels of well-being when they approach retirement age. Perhaps that tells us something about how dissatisfied people are during the latter part of their working lives.
The Scientists rated people’s well-being in terms of sense of purpose and how much they felt in control of their lives at age 65. They then checked back almost nine years later.
9% of those most satisfied had died but 29% of those least satisfied. After adjusting for wealth and education – factors associated worth well-being – they concluded that those with the highest levels of well-being were less likely to die during the study and live an extra 2 years.
Professor Steptoe, who led the study, said that it wasn’t enough just to deal with mental well-being in terms of the negative aspects such as depression and mental ill-health, but we should be thinking about reinforcing the positive aspects of mental well-being – although that’s not as simple as it might sound.