Medicine Personal Growth

50 Years of Research Reveals 3 Ways You Can Live Longer and Be Happier

April 7, 2021
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Be happier and live longer by taking these three steps.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What Is Life Without Happiness?

We all want to be happy, and science can help.

This report examines happiness patterns over more than 50 years. Then it suggests a straightforward and direct approach we can use to gain the best out of life.

Happiness is on Holiday

Source: Wavebreakmedia/Depositphotos.com       

Happiness Is on Holiday

Just glimpsing the major headlines on a given day is enough to tell us that peace and happiness are becoming alien concepts in our world. The news is forever saturated with unrest, uncertainty, and violence. Increased incidence of depression and suicide indicate that people are hiding their pain behind cheerful emojis and carefully crafted social media posts. 

While we are all at various stages of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, many are fighting natural disasters and/or battling chronic diseases. In fact, over 95% of the world’s population has health problems, and over a third of those have more than five ailments.

Unfortunately, health and happiness are linked.

Information from the 2020 World Happiness Report reveals that negative feelings are rising worldwide. Happiness has been steadily decreasing since 2011, and the percentage of people who claim they are happy has dropped 14 points in that period. 


Source: HayDmitriy/Depositphotos.com

A 2019 survey determined that “happy” people have higher trust in others and institutions, and are more engaged in leisure activities and community life. They are also healthier overall.

A study published in 2011 reported that, even more than income level, frequent anxiety and depression attacks significantly impact happiness. 

The Research That Shows Us How to Be Happier

This 2017 study compiled 50 years of research and looked for ways to encourage subjects to lead to healthier and longer lives. Focused on improving physical health, mental wellbeing, and coping abilities, they embraced a biopsychosocial model and examined ideas ranging from interventions to lower stress environments.

Here’s what they found:

  1. Adopt and maintain healthy behaviors.

It’s obvious and already stated above: health plays a critical role in your happiness. Eat a healthy diet, get proper exercise, taking your medication as prescribed, and practice good sleep hygiene and mindfulness. Those habits remain the gold standard for maintaining happiness. 

Sonja Lyubomirsky takes this even further in her book “The How of Happiness.” She offers that expressing gratitude, cultivating optimism, performing acts of kindness, nurturing social relationships, learning to forgive, savoring life’s joys, committing to goals, practicing religion or spirituality, and taking care of your body are the most effective strategies for increasing happiness. Each one of those are healthy acts.

Research on Hapiness

Source: Elnur_/Depositphotos.com

  1. Hang out with positive people.

We are products of who we associate with. Do you have a friend who you love dearly but avoid as much as you can? They’re always complaining or dwelling on the latest doom and gloom news TOO MUCH. Their negativity brings you down, so you ignore their calls and put off talking to them for as long as possible. 

Negative people rub off on us. 

So, surround yourself with positive friends and family–you’ll feel better and be happier as a result.

  1. Give yourself a purpose.

Those with a sense of purpose tend to be happier, healthier, and wealthier. Our purpose keeps us engaged, reminds us that what we’re doing matters, and encourages us to set and achieve goals. 

A Sidenote About Happiness on a Global Scale

Income inequality plays an enormous role in happiness. Sure, money can’t buy everything, but access to proper education and certain resources makes life a heck of a lot easier and more fulfilling. Thus, developing countries usually have more widespread dissatisfaction when compared to their developed counterparts. 

Addressing income inequality would alleviate health disparities and make the world a happier place. 


  1. The 2021 World Happiness Report shows that happiness is declining.
  1. If you want to become happier yourself, get healthy, surround yourself with positive people, and find purpose.

Want to read more about happiness? One old as f*ck (her words) patient taught me some unforgettable lessons about the meaning of life.

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Youngstown, Ohio

Medical Doctor (M.D.); Research Fellow at Lumen Foundation Artificial Intelligence Division

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