Happy people are less likely to develop heart disease, a study today claimed. It is the first to show an independent relationship between positive emotions and coronary heart disease.
Dr Karina Davidson said the findings suggested it may be possible to help prevent heart disease by boosting people's enthusiasm and contentedness.
The study focused on 1,739 healthy adults over ten years.
Nurses assessed participants' risk of heart disease and measured symptoms of depression, hostility, anxiety and the degree of expression of positive emotions, which is known as "positive affect". Positive affect is defined as the experience of pleasurable emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentment.
After taking account of age, sex, heart-associated risk factors and negative emotions, researchers found increased positive affect predicted a 22pc lower risk of heart disease. Dr Davidson said: "We have several possible explanations. First, those with positive affect may have longer periods of rest or relaxation physiologically.
"Second, those with positive affect may recover more quickly from stressors, and may not spend as much time 're-living' them, which in turn seems to cause physiological damage."
Dr Davidson said everyone should try to inject some fun into their daily routines.
She said: "Spending some few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health, and may improve your physical health as well."