I’ve been doing lots of reading recently on happiness; what it is, how it’s measured and its impact on our lives. One thing that has really jumped out at me is the relationship between happiness and health. In one study they measured the happiness of 193 people aged between 21 and 55 and then infected them with a flu virus to see how they would cope. They found that happier people reported fewer symptoms and had a lower risk of getting ill. In another study they found that optimistic people who are satisfied with their life have a significantly reduced chance of developing cardiovascular disease. One long term study of 678 nuns found that the more optimistic nuns were less likely to develop dementia. These are just a few of a very large number of studies showing that happier people tend to be healthier.
It also turns out that happier people tend to live for longer. One study of 320 twins over 80 years old showed that those who were least satisfied with their present lives had almost twice the risk of dying than those with the highest satisfaction. How much longer do happier people live for? Estimates vary, but one estimate is that happiness provides an additional 7.5 to 10 years of life.
So, happier people are likely to be healthier and live for longer. How great is that?! Should companies care about this or is it purely of interest to individuals and health professionals? A recent publication from NHS England shows that NHS staff who are happier at work take less sick leave, which isn’t surprising if they are less likely to get ill. The report states that a small increase in the engagement of staff in NHS England could save 2000 sick days per year for the average NHS Trust, roughly equivalent to £365,000. Not just that though. The same increase in engagement would lead to a reduction in agency staff costs of around £1.7m per NHS Trust per year. I’m sure that money would come in useful elsewhere…
So, happier people live longer, healthier lives and organisations with happier employees have fewer sick days to cope with. Sounds like a win-win to me.
I’m going to be looking further into happiness; it’s causes, how it’s measured and its impact on productivity at work. Future blog post subjects!