Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Unhappiness Has No Effect on Mortality

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A study of a million women in the UK has concluded that the widespread belief that unhappiness and stress directly cause ill health comes from studies that confused cause and effect.

Life-threatening poor health can cause unhappiness, and for this reason unhappiness is associated with increased mortality. In addition, smokers tend to be unhappier than non-smokers. However, after taking into account previous ill health, smoking and other lifestyle and socio-economic factors, the study found that unhappiness itself was no longer associated with increased mortality.

Lead author Dr Bette Liu, now at the University of NSW, said: “Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn’t make you ill. We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a 10-year study of a million women.”

The investigation, published in The Lancet (, was conducted within the UK Million Women Study. Three years after joining this study, women were sent a questionnaire asking them to self-rate their health, happiness, stress, feelings of control, and whether they felt relaxed. Five out of six of the women said they were generally happy, but one in six said they were generally unhappy.

As in other studies, unhappiness was associated with deprivation...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.