Here is a surprise. Research has found evidence that those who are in poor health are often just as happy as those who are considered healthy. Conditions like cancer actually appear to have little impact on a person’s happiness, while others have a far different result. A recent study appearing in the Journal of Happiness Studies supports this idea, but makes an important point. Anyone whose daily life is disrupted because of their condition (urinary incontinence, severe, chronic pain) suffers a lasting negative impact on their sense of happiness.
Study lead author Erik Angner, Ph.D. from George Mason University points to this research as the first to measure the degree different health conditions disrupt daily activity. The interdisciplinary team, including researchers from the University of Chicago, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and UMass Medical School came up with a measure that was intended to assess limitations in physical activities due to the limitations of health conditions. It was dubbed the “freedom from debility score” and was based on four healthy questions designed to address restrictions to physical actions and usual role activities due to health problems.
When the team surveyed 383 older adults who had been recruited from 39 primary care practices in Alabama, they saw that health status was a key predictor of happiness. In fact, a one point increase in the freedom from debility score was associated with a 3% reduction in the odds the subject would report feelings of unhappiness.
But, after accounting for other factors related to happiness – poor health was closely associated with unhappiness only in those who also reported that their health issues interfered with their daily activities. For those who are ill, but without regular disruption of daily activity, such as cancer patients, most are able to adapt over time and come to accept even the most dangerous health problems or serious disability.
It seems that though we might fear a calamity, the evidence suggests human beings are highly adaptable when it comes to feelings of happiness.
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Health Or Happiness… Continued…
Expert Bryan Bruno, MD a psychiatrist and acting chairman of the department of psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital, agrees that many patients adapt remarkably well to a change in health status, just so long as the decline isn’t too fast. This isn’t likely to be the case for those who have a history of either depression or anxiety. The researchers from the current work are hoping that a better understanding of the relationship between our health status and feelings of well-being may have big implications for the treatment of patients going forward.
It’s hard not to worry about the inevitable declines that go along with aging. The good news is that more often than not the changes are slow and gradual, and most of us cope fairly well even in a youth focused culture that teaches older people to be wary, that aging is a threat to our self worth and quality of living. Even under the constant bombardment of ways to keep our youthful looks… hair colours, Viagra and all manner of cosmetic procedures… we can age with grace and style.
Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about aging differently. To consider added years making us better not worse. To accept what we can’t change, while working to change what we can – our attitude and lifestyle.
To your good health,