New study examines how health affects happiness

(Medical Xpress)—A new study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that the degree to which a disease disrupts daily functioning is associated with reduced happiness.

Lead author Erik Angner, associate professor of philosophy, economics and public policy at George Mason University, worked with an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Chicago and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The full study is available online.

Previous research found that many serious medical conditions, including cancer, have a surprisingly small impact on happiness, while certain other conditions, such as , seem to have a lasting negative effect on happiness.

In their study, Angner and his co-authors explored the difference. They developed a measure called the "freedom-from-debility score" based on four questions explicitly designed to represent limitations in physical activities and in usual role activities because of health problems.

This study is the first to use a direct measure of the degree to which disease disrupts daily functioning.

The authors found that when controlling for demographic and in addition to objective and subjective health status, a one-point increase in the freedom-from-debility score (on a scale from 0 to 100) was associated with a three-percent reduction in the odds of reported unhappiness.

For example, a patient with , whose daily functioning is not affected by his condition, might score higher on a happiness scale than a patient with urinary incontinence, whose condition imposes dramatic limitations in daily functioning. Indeed, in an earlier study, the authors found that participants with a history of cancer reported being significantly happier than those with urinary incontinence.

The study was conducted using a sample of 383 recruited from the practices of 39 in Alabama.

"These new results support the notion that health status is one of the most important predictors of happiness," Angner said. "A better understanding of the complex relationship between health status and subjective well-being could have important implications for the care and treatment of patients and could lead to interventions that could dramatically improve patient quality of life."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Spirituality is key to kids' happiness

Jan 08, 2009

To make children happier, we may need to encourage them to develop a strong sense of personal worth, according to Dr. Mark Holder from the University of British Columbia in Canada and his colleagues Dr. Ben Coleman and Judi ...

Targeted health support needed for those with lower IQs

Sep 27, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Targeted health support is necessary for people with lower IQs according to new research which shows that they are unhappier and more likely to have poorer health than people with higher ...

Study finds we choose money over happiness

Sep 19, 2011

Given the choice, would you take a good-paying job with reasonable demands on your time or a high-paying job with longer work hours, permitting only six hours of sleep? Many people opt for the cash, even when they know their ...

Recommended for you

Toddlers copy their peers to fit in, but apes don't

1 hour ago

From the playground to the board room, people often follow, or conform, to the behavior of those around them as a way of fitting in. New research shows that this behavioral conformity appears early in human ...

Sadness lasts longer than other emotions

2 hours ago

Why is it that you can feel sad up to 240 times longer than you do feeling ashamed, surprised, irritated or even bored? It's because sadness often goes hand in hand with events of greater impact such as death ...

Can parents make their kids smarter?

2 hours ago

Reading bedtime stories, engaging in conversation and eating nightly dinners together are all positive ways in which parents interact with their children, but according to new research, none of these actions ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.