Being Happy and Becoming Happier as Independent Predictors of Physical Health and Mortality

Emily C. Willroth*, Anthony D. Ong, Eileen K. Graham, Daniel K. Mroczek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective The present study tested preregistered predictions regarding the prospective associations between level and change in subjective well-being (SWB) and physical health. Methods In two large longitudinal panel studies conducted in the United States (N = 3294) and Japan (N = 657), we used multilevel growth curve models to estimate level and change in components of SWB (i.e., life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect). Next, we used random intercepts and slopes to predict subsequent self-reported general health and number of chronic health conditions (in the United States and Japan) and mortality risk (in the United States). Results Greater life satisfaction, higher positive affect, and lower negative affect were associated with better health (0.22 < |β values| < 0.46) and longer survival. Above and beyond SWB level, longitudinal increases in life satisfaction and positive affect and longitudinal decreases in negative affect were associated with better health (0.06 < |β values| < 0.20). Moreover, all three SWB components independently predicted health, and life satisfaction and negative affect independently predicted survival. The preregistration and analysis scripts are available at osf.io/mz9gy. Conclusions The present findings suggest that being happy and becoming happier across time are independently associated with better physical health in the United States and Japan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)650-657
Number of pages8
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Volume82
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Keywords

  • affect
  • life satisfaction
  • mortality
  • physical health
  • subjective well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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