ELSA research published in JAMA Network Open has shown that people who report high levels of subjective wellbeing live longer and also healthier lives than those with lower levels of wellbeing.
Providing estimates of how many years of future life are likely to be spent in good health, health expectancy was applied to subjective wellbeing, which was measured as enjoyment of life coupled with low levels of depressive symptoms.
The authors looked at data from 9,761 ELSA participants who were followed up for a maximum of 10 years. Two health expectancy outcomes were defined: disability-free life expectancy and chronic disease-free life expectancy using occurrence of chronic conditions.
They found that people experiencing greater enjoyment of life and no depressive symptoms are likely to live more of their remaining years in good health. And the differences are substantial.
Lead author, Paola Zaninotto explains “To put these findings into context, a woman aged 50 years who enjoyed life could expect to live a further 37 years, compared with 31 years for a woman who did not enjoy life and had depressive symptoms.
“And 31 of these years would be lived without disability, compared with 21 years for a woman reporting low enjoyment and depressive symptoms.”
These findings emphasise the public health benefits in promoting wellbeing in older people.
Zaninotto, P and Steptoe, A. Association between subjective wellbeing and living longer without disability or illness. JAMA Network Open. 2019;2(7):e196870.doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.6870