Feeling stressed? It won't kill you!
It's been the general consensus for many years now that being happy and relaxed means you're less likely to fall ill. But while it's always good to look on the bright side, experts now claim feeling stressed and miserable won't send you into an early grave.
Oxford University researchers believe previous studies muddled cause and effect, which means it's not unhappiness that causes illness but vice versa. "Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill," Dr Bette Liu from the University of New South Wales, who also worked on the study, clarified.
"We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality."
Scientists used the Million Women Study, which has tracked British women since 1996, to draw their conclusions. After eliminating anyone who was ill at the start of the study, they had 720,000 women with an average age of 59 left to focus on.
Participants answered questions on how often they were happy or stressed and were then tracked for 10 years, over which 30,000 of them died. Initially there appeared to be a link between unhappiness and death, but once other factors were taken into account (such as wealth and whether the person smoked), this link vanished.
Instead, feeling unhappy could lead to unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking or overeating, which in turn can lead to early death.
"The behaviour that worry causes could have adverse effect - like smoking or drinking. But does actual happiness itself or stress itself kill you? Then no," Professor Sir Richard Peto, from Oxford University, said.
The study only looked at women, but researchers are positive a similar study with men would throw up the same result. "Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can directly cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect," Sir Richard added.
"Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the study shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates."
However, not everyone is convinced. Heart doctors especially remain certain that stress can negatively impact the body. So just to be on the safe side, repeat after us: don't worry, be happy!