Human Journey

Happiness: The Key to Longevity?


Older man tells a story (Albert Moldvay)


“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” – George Burns

If you’re happy and you know it, you may just live longer than the sad sack sitting next to you.  Researchers at University College London  have found that happier people are 35% less likely to die over the next five years than their less joyful counterparts.  The researchers argue that efforts should be made to promote happiness in older people, such as interventions that assure adequate health care, finances and social support.

Meanwhile, biologists at the University of Toronto have proven that stress can be a real killer, especially if you are a dragonfly. During a recent study, dragonfly larvae were put into aquarium tanks where they could see and smell potential predators without coming into physical contact with them. Being in such close proximity to a predator–even one that couldn’t eat them–was so stressful that survival rates for these dragonflies were 2.5 to 4.3 times less than those not exposed to predators. The stress actually killed them.

So, the moral of the story is: stay happy and stress free…and avoid hungry predators.

For all the latest science news, check out National Geographic Library’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.

Since 2005, Michael has been a librarian at National Geographic.
  • don bronkema

    Ah, but what if one is old, penurious, sick, stressed-out & alone? We need an app for that…

  • Jose Augusto ´´Tuto´´

    This was a very intriguing article, happiness is the primary key of longevity and stress and tension are the hungry predators.

  • Jotham Bessey

    Ah! and there are lots of hungry predators! Loan companys, large corporate businesses, advertizing that force you to think you need what you don’t, the employer that want’s 200% effort, people in your life that are all take and no give, etc. etc.

  • John Ameh

    Can one find true happiness in this present harsh economy across the globe and the treat of war and terrolism?

  • salwa

    Being simple and satisfied….helping those who need help….being moderate in everything…..lead to happiness

  • Jaime Alfaro

    Happiness is such a complex term meaning different things to different people. But I do think that, fundamentally, what this study measures is the level to which people perceive threats in their daily lives. Many researchers are currently involved in the study of how reducing the perception of threats, and therefore reducing stress and increasing calmness, affects health and longevity. A good person to
    look into is Dr. Elissa Epel (UCSF) who had done a lot of work with stress and health, using biomarkers as a way to evaluate and quantify how stress affects the body.

    -Jaime Alfaro
    Staff Writer,

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