Worthwhile
Image: Unsplash

The power of positivity

Is there a circular relationship between living a happy life and being healthy? A recent University College London (UCL) study suggests as much. Researchers found that people in better health are more likely to live a life they see as meaningful and, in turn, people that believe they are living a worthwhile life remain healthier over an extended period of time. It is believed this new knowledge could help to develop modern strategies of keeping our ever-ageing population healthy and happy.

UCL researchers analysed data collected between 2012 and 2016 from more than 7,000 adults, aged 50 and over. In 2012, the volunteers were asked to rate how ‘worthwhile’ they believed their life was on a scale of one to 10. It was found that factors such as having good personal relationships, better finances, and good mental and physical health all correlated with the worthwhile ratings. Four years later, the participants were set a series of questions and performed medical tests to monitor their fitness levels. On average, those who had rated higher in 2012 were found to have an 18% faster walking speed and a 13% higher level of vitamin D in their blood. On the other hand, those who had lower ratings were twice as likely to develop symptoms of depression and 30% more likely to suffer chronic pain.

Researchers found that people in better health are more likely to live a life they see as meaningful and, in turn, people that believe they are living a worthwhile life remain healthier over an extended period of time

This study is a first step towards finding new and better methods for caring for the elderly. It lends credence to the connection between positive thinking and its physical effects, and highlights the need for a balance of both mental and physical care. However, there are still some questions that remain unanswered.

The researchers do not know which specific activities volunteers found worthwhile. As Dr Daisy Fancourt, the lead co-author, highlighted, “For some it might be supporting their families, for others a particular accomplishment in their work or hobby, enjoying nature or perhaps following a favourite sports team. What is important is that the individual finds these activities worthwhile and feels like they give a sense of meaning to life.” There could be universally beneficial impacts brought about by reducing loneliness or increasing time spent outside, but it could also be that each and every person needs a specific care strategy in line with their own personal interests.

This study is a first step towards finding new and better methods for caring for the elderly. It lends credence to the connection between positive thinking and its physical effects, and highlights the need for a balance of both mental and physical care

Professor Andrew Steptoe, another of the study’s lead co-authors, added, “We need more and better data about purpose in life from the population at large in order to tease out better ways to promote a good life in middle and older age.” Four years is a relatively short time frame compared to a lifetime. How does a positive attitude affect a person over 10, 20, or even 50 years and what are the effects in other age groups – are they more or less pronounced and do they persist throughout life?

For many students here at Warwick, it is easy to get bogged down with essay deadlines, January exams, and seminar readings. But remember, reserving a slot in your daily routine for something you’re absolutely passionate about, be it reading, exercising, or enjoying nature, can work wonders for your health and mental well-being.

Related Posts

Comments (1)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *