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Happiness can help cut blood pressure and obesity

Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has shown that those who report more positive emotion have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol has been associated with many adverse outcomes such as the thickening of the arteries which leads to heart disease, abdominal obesity and impaired immune functioning, along with other adverse effects.

The lead researcher, Dr Andrew Steptow from the University College London, investigated happy moods and levels of cortisol in 2,837 British individuals.  Previous research has shown that happier people tend to be in better health than stressed, hostile or pessimistic individuals. This research provides some insight into the health benefits of positive emotion.

This study collected six samples of saliva to measure levels of cortisol, from 50 to 74 year old males and females, throughout the day.  After each sample participants recorded their current mood i.e. the extent to which they felt ?happy, excited or content?.  The researchers found that over the course of the day happier men and woman had lower levels of cortisol, even when factors such as age, weight, smoking and income were taken into account.

On a different day the researchers measured markers of inflammation in the body i.e. C-reactive protein and interleukin6.  What they found was that among woman, not men, positive emotion was related to lower levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin 6. The reason for this is not clear.

This research points out that people who experience positive emotion are healthier.  Steptow suggests that certain factors can influence a person?s level of happiness such as social relationships and personal fulfilment, and that people need to learn about the things that provide them with lasting happiness. To read the article click here

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