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Happiness helps people stay healthy

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People who are happier in their daily lives have healthier levels of key body chemicals than those who muster few positive feelings, a new study suggests. This means happier people may have healthier hearts and cardiovascular systems, possibly cutting their risk of diseases like diabetes.

Previous studies have shown that depression is associated with health problems compared to average emotional states. But few studies have looked at the effects of positive moods on health. Now, researchers at University College London, UK, have linked everyday happiness with healthier levels of important body chemicals, such as the stress hormone cortisol.

"This study showed that whether people are happy or less happy in their everyday lives appears to have important effects on the markers of biological function known to be associated with disease," says clinical psychologist Jane Wardle, one of the research team. "Perhaps laughter is the best medicine," she adds.

"This is the best data to date that associates positive emotional feelings with good effects on your health," says Carol Shively, at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US. "We usually concentrate on things that are either bad or wrong, rather than good or right."

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