The reverse relationship between happiness and health

Across cultures, there seems to be one thing that all parents wish for their children: good health. Good health enables us to play, to seek out adventures, to pursue happiness. Ufabet.

At the Happiness Research Institute, they have explored how psoriasis – a chronic and recurrent inflammatory disease of the skin – affects happiness. Up to the time of writing, the PsoHappy project has collected data from almost fifty thousand people from more than forty countries across the world. In every country, we find that those living with psoriasis are less happy than the general population.

In the Nordic countries, all of which consistently rank among the ten happiest countries in the world, free health care is available to everyone. People simply have less to worry about in daily life than most other people on this front, and that forms a sound basis for high levels of happiness.

In Denmark, there is a very different understanding of what “freedom” means. They have gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that come with economic insecurity. Instead of promoting a system which allows a few to have enormous wealth, they have developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all – including the children, the elderly and the disabled.

In other words, Breaking Bad, the TV drama where a teacher turns drug lord to pay his medical bills for cancer treatment, would have made a pretty shitty TV show in a Nordic context. 

The reverse relationship between happiness and health

The reverse relationship between happiness and health

Furthermore, our happiness has an impact on our health. A greater level of happiness predicts better future physical health. According to the World Happiness Report 2012:

The medical literature has found high correlations between various low well-being scores and subsequent coronary heart disease, strokes and length of life. Individuals with higher positive affect have better neuroendocrine, inflammatory and cardiovascular activity. Those with higher positive affect are less likely to catch a cold when exposed to a cold || virus and recover faster if they do.

Going by this, you would expect that the happy Danes enjoy the world’s longest life expectancy. But that is not the case. That hon goes to Japan. Denmark comes in at twenty-seventh, with Danes living a little over a year longer than the Americans but half a year less than the British. In addition, of all the Nordic populations, Danes live the shortest time.

In general, Danes smoke a lot, drink a lot and eat loads of meat and sugar, which is not compatible with a long and healthy life. Hygge – the cornerstone of Danish culture and the Danish way of life – is, in part, about indulging in cinnamon swirls and hot chocolate with whipped cream without ordering a side of guilt.

Danes balance the cinnamon swirls with physical activity. Not every Dane is a fjord-swimming, cycling, cross-country-skiing aficionado, but 31 per cent of Danes are physically active at least five hours per week in their spare time, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office.

But Danes dislike the gym every bit as much as everyone else, so how do they get so much exercise?