Happy and Healthy
In addition to the obvious social benefits, a happy person may also enjoy better health! Researchers studied the link between positive emotions and biological responses in approximately 3000 adults between the ages of 50 and 74. They found that people who had a greater frequency of upbeat moods throughout the day had lower levels of cortisol, a “stress” hormone. When cortisol is chronically elevated, it may contribute to high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and a depressed immune system. In women, positive emotions were also associated with lower C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, proteins that indicate widespread inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation triggered by stress can contribute to the development of many illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Levels of free cortisol in saliva were measured on waking, 30 minutes later, and four times over the day and evening. Salivary cortisol levels averaged over the day were inversely associated with positive affect, i.e., happier people had lower cortisol levels.