The Power of Positive Emotions: It's a Matter of Life or Death-Subjective Well-Being and Longevity Over 28 Years in a General Population

Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, The University of Texas-Houston, School of Public Health, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Health Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.59). 01/2010; 29(1):9-19. DOI: 10.1037/a0016767
Source: PubMed


This study longitudinally examined Subjective Well-Being (SWB) and its components, namely, Positive Feelings (PF, including global life satisfaction [GLS]), domain life satisfaction [DLS], and positive affect [PA]) as well as Negative Feelings (NF) as predictors of longevity in a general population.
Data from the Alameda County Study over 28 years (1965-1993, N = 6856) were analyzed with multivariate Cox Proportional Hazard Models.
Longevity, evaluated by risks of all-cause, natural-cause, and unnatural-cause mortality.
After demographic and baseline health covariates were controlled, SWB, PF, GLS, and DLS significantly predicted lowered risks of all-cause and natural-cause mortality (Relative Risk per unit predictor increase [RR] ranged .904-.989, p values ranged .000-.05). SWB, PF, and GLS also significantly predicted lowered risk of unnatural-cause mortality (RR ranged .862-.961, p values ranged .014-.05). These associations seemed partially or completely mediated by social networks. The associations were also found separately in younger (<55 in age) and/or older (>or=55) subsamples, and were especially salient in the healthy subsample. However, NF showed no associations with the mortality outcomes.
SWB and its various positive components, but not NF, significantly predict longevity in the general population.

    • "The long-term health benefit of positive affect has been well demonstrated in previous studies; however, one review emphasized that it is positive affect as a trait, rather than as a state, which has been linked to longevity (Pressman & Cohen, 2005). Positive affect along with subjective well-being and life satisfaction has been reported to predict a lower risk of all-cause mortality in a 28-year longitudinal study (Xu & Roberts, 2010). Other longitudinal studies suggest that positive affect may be beneficial for health outcomes in part because it is closely linked to other protective psychosocial factors and healthy lifestyles (Steptoe, O'Donnell, Marmot, & Wardle, 2008). "
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    • "Sensitivity to changes in belongingness is frequently explained in evolutionary terms: being a member of a group improves survival chances due to the protection and resources offered by the group (Lancaster, 1986). Relatedly, positive affect experienced in response to social acceptance is likely to strengthen one's psychological resilience (Fredrickson et al., 2003), to promote physical health (e.g., Davidson et al., 2010; Boehm and Kubzansky, 2012), and to increase longevity (Xu and Roberts, 2010). Consistent with these theoretical postulations, social exclusion has been found to provoke significant changes across multiple psychobiosocial domains. "
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