Ask Henry: Are Happiness and Health Linked?

Question: I’ve heard that people who are generally happy tend to be healthier than grumpy ones, is this true?

Great question! Although instinctively, most of us believe this to be true, does science back it up?

We know from vast scientific literature that negative emotions can cause serious harm to our bodies. Being angry all the time, as well as feeling constantly anxious, can make us susceptible to a variety of illnesses, including stroke, heart disease and even diabetes.

“But negative emotions are only one-half of the equation,” says Laura Kubzansky, a Harvard School of Public Health associate professor of society, human development and health.

In a 2007 study that followed more than 6,000 men and women, ages 25 to 74, for 20 years, she found that emotional vitality — a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance — appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The protective effect was distinct and measurable, even when taking into account such wholesome behaviors as not smoking and regular exercise.

Looks like research on this topic backs up this claim.

Keys to a happier, healthier life

Research suggests that certain personal attributes — whether inborn or shaped by positive life circumstances — help some people avoid or positively manage diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression. These include:

Emotional vitality: A sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness and engagement.
Optimism: The perspective that good things will happen and that one’s actions account for the good things that occur in life.
Supportive networks: Social contact with networks of family and friends.
Self-regulation: Bouncing back from stressful challenges and knowing that things will eventually look up again; choosing healthy behaviors such as physical activity and eating well; and avoiding risky behaviors such as unsafe sex, drinking alcohol to excess and regular overeating.

Do you have a question for Ask Henry? You can email: or leave a comment on this blog post.

About the Author

Henry Guzman, R.N., is the director of Wellness Strategies at Baptist Health South Florida. He is a graduate of Miami Dade College and Barry University and has earned degrees in nursing and sports medicine, specializing in exercise science and nutrition. Henry has been actively involved in the areas of wellness and prevention for the past 15 years, with the last five serving as manager of Employee Health Management, and as a health and wellness educator focusing on developing lifestyle modification programs for Baptist Health. His work on wellness and prevention has been published in multiple scientific journals, and he continues collaborating on several research projects examining the effects of intensive lifestyle intervention programs and their long-term effects on health related behavior modification.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

Language Preference / Preferencia de idioma

I want to see the site in English

Continue In English

Quiero ver el sitio en Español

Continuar en español