Hoping to live longer? If you're happy, you just might get the chance, according to a recent British study.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research concluded that those who reported feeling happiest had a 35 percent reduced risk of death compared with those who reported feeling least happy.
Dr. Holly Phillips, an internist, explained on "The Early Show" that researchers followed participants 52 to 79 years old for five years. They found that those who had the most positive outlook on the first day of the study also were the least likely to die over the five year period, and those who were most "negative" were more likely to pass away. The study controlled for a variety of factors, such as age, gender, health, wealth, education and marital status.
Phillips said happiness makes a profound difference on overall health.
"(Happiness) affects nearly every aspect of our physical health," she said. "The first would be, of course, we have a healthier heart. A previous study showed people who were happy had a 22 percent lower risk of suffering from heart disease -- our top killer -- than people who are unhappy. It also combats stress. Stress is linked with cancer, among many other illnesses. And (happiness) boosts our immune system. People who are happy have more white blood cells and actually more natural killer cells, which help us to fight off viruses."
In this study, Phillips said "literally, being happy saved their lives."
However, figuring out what exactly makes people happy is a little harder to figure out, Phillips said.
But, she observed, happy people do have several things in common, including connections with others.
"They have meaningful relationships, whether it's at work, at home or in the community," she said.
"And the other thing is you really have to live in the moment. Sometimes we postpone our happiness saying, 'I'll be happy when I lose five pounds,' 'I'll be happy when I get a better the job, when I get a bigger apartment,' whatever it is. The happiest people enjoy the journey getting there, as well."