Johannesburg, Aug 15 : Forget long walks and calorie-controlled diets, the best way to boost lifespan is: be happy.
That's the conclusion of a new study, which shows that being happy can add several years to life. "Happiness does not heal, but happiness protects against falling ill," 24.com quoted Ruut Veenhoven of Rotterdam's Erasmus University, as saying in a study to be published next month.
After reviewing 30 studies carried out worldwide over periods ranging from one to 60 years, the Dutch professor said the effects of happiness on longevity were "comparable to that of smoking or not".
That special flair for feeling good, he said, could lengthen life by between 7.5 and 10 years.
In Veenhoven's findings, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, a scientific publication founded in 2000, the strongest effect on longevity was found among a group of US nuns followed through their adult life - perhaps reflecting the feel-good factor from belonging to a close-knit stress-free community with a sense of purpose.
In his paper, Veenhoven first looked at statistics to see whether good cheer impacted on the sick, but concluded that while happiness had helped some cancer patients suffering from a relapse, in general "happiness does not appear to prolong the deathbed."
Among healthy populations, on the contrary, happiness appeared to protect against falling ill, thus prolonging life.
Happy people were more inclined to watch their weight, were more perceptive of symptoms of illness, tended to be more moderate with smoking and drinking and generally lived healthier lives.
They were also more active, more open to the world, more self-confident, made better choices and built more social networks.