If you’re satisfied with your life, you could have more time to enjoy it.
New research from Chapman University has shown that greater life satisfaction in adults older than 50 years of age is related to a reduced risk of mortality.
A study followed nearly 4,500 participants over a nine-year timespan and found that variability in life satisfaction across time increases risk of mortality, but only among less satisfied people.
In each year of the study, older men and women responded to the question, ‘All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life?’ They ranked their levels of satisfaction on a scale ranging from zero to 10, with 10 representing the highest life satisfaction. The researchers assessed both average life satisfaction across time and the variability in life satisfaction across time.
Covering all bases, the study took into account factors like education, age, gender, education, smoking status, existing health conditions, depressive symptoms, and physical activity.
“Although life satisfaction is typically considered relatively consistent across time, it may change in response to life circumstances such as divorce or unemployment,” said Julia Boehm, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University. “Some people may adapt more readily to new situations and thus appear to have relatively stable life satisfaction, and others may not adapt as quickly. If people repeatedly encounter distressing life events that diminish their life satisfaction, then fluctuations in lower levels of satisfaction seem to be particularly harmful for longevity.”
The researchers learned that as the participants’ life satisfaction increased, the risk of mortality decreased by 18 per cent. They also found – in contrast – that greater variability in life satisfaction was associated with a 20 per cent increased risk of mortality.
Individuals with high levels of life satisfaction tended to experience reduced risk of mortality regardless of how their life satisfaction varied over time.
While the results of the study aren’t really that surprising, it’s the first to consider the effects of life satisfaction on the risk of mortality when life satisfaction is summarized across as many as nine repeated assessments, according to Boehm.
“Having multiple assessments of life satisfaction also allowed us to examine how variability in satisfaction across time might be related to longevity, which has never been investigated before,” she said.
So, basically, the findings of the study suggest that fluctuating levels of life satisfaction matter for mortality risk only when life satisfaction is also relatively low.
The findings can also shed light into health-related outcomes like longevity when it comes to mental health disorders that are associated with extreme fluctuations in psychological states.