January 21, 2014
THE QUESTION Negative emotions have been shown to have a detrimental effect on the body. Might positive emotions — feeling happy, satisfied, energized about life — have a good effect?
THIS STUDY Analyzed data on 3,199 people, 60 and older, including their attitudes about how much they enjoyed life, any problems they had with basic daily functions such as dressing and bathing, and how mobile they were. About 21 percent were deemed to have a high level of enjoyment about life, 56 percent a medium level and 23 percent a low level of enjoyment. In an eight-year span, problems with day-to-day tasks generally increased and mobility declined. About 4 percent of those most upbeat about life developed two or more new functional impairments, compared with 17 percent of those who enjoyed life the least. During this time, people assessed as enjoying life at a medium or low level were about 80 percent more likely than their happier counterparts to have developed mobility and functional problems.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Older people. There is growing evidence that optimistic people not only tend to live longer but may reap physical benefits as well, allowing them to continue working, volunteering, participating in activities or doing whatever they deem important.