Stressful job? Don't fret, stress and unhappiness have no direct link to mortality

James Nickerson
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The scientists say previous research was confusing cause and effect (Source: Getty)

You may have the most stressful job on earth, but here's something that may help you relax: getting worked up has no direct impact on your life span.

A decade long new study, published in the Lancet, has found that unhappiness and stress, often thought to be detrimental to health, will not prematurely kill you.

Professor Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University said : "Worry does not kill you. The behaviour that worry causes could have adverse effect - like smoking or drinking. But does actual happiness itself or stress itself kill you? Then no."

"Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can directly cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect," Peto added. "Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the study shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates."

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The teams of scientists in Australia and the UK claim previous studies, in mixing up cause and effect, had failed to deal with the reverse causality that people who are ill are not very happy.

The study found light smokers had double the risk of an early death and regular smoker three times the risk of an early death, compared to non-smokers, but that happiness was not relevant.

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A significant link between those who said they were unhappy and those who passed away was originally found. However, when taking smoking, lifestyle, and socio-economic factors into account, they found the link disappeared.

The study included the answers from 720,000 women to questions of how happy or stressed they felt, before being tracked for a decade, in which time 30,000 died.

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