Looks like unhappiness won’t kill you. So be as glum as you happily want to be, because researchers have recently concluded that happiness has no impact on death rates from cancer, heart disease or other causes.

A study published in The Lancet shatters the the widespread but mistaken belief that unhappiness and stress directly cause ill health came from studies that had simply confused cause and effect. Scientists have torpedoed the idea that people can smile their way to a long life, finding that happiness has no influence on longevity. According to the research, happiness won’t extend your life after all. But life-threatening poor health can make us miserable, which explains why unhappiness is associated with death.

Chin up! Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality,” the study authors wrote .

A major study of one million women found no evidence to support the myth that being glum hurts your health. The investigation was conducted within the UK Million Women Study. Three years after joining the study, women were sent a questionnaire asking them to self-rate their health, happiness, stress, feelings of control, and whether they felt relaxed. Five out of six of the women said they were generally happy, but one in six said they were generally unhappy.

The main analyses included 7,00,000 women, average age 59 years, and over the next 10 years these women were followed by electronic record linkage for mortality, during which time 30 000 of the women died. A million women can’t be wrong!

A million women can’t be wrong | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

After taking account of previous ill health, smoking, and other lifestyle and socio-economic factors, the investigators found that unhappiness itself was no longer associated with increased mortality. Instead, the things that make people happy, particularly their good health, are the same things that shield them from premature death.

“Our large prospective study shows no robust evidence that happiness itself reduces cardiac, cancer, or overall mortality,” the researchers concluded .

Basically, happiness is not the elixir we thought it was. It does not help with keeping ill-health at bay. Misery can have the last laugh.