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Happy people have healthier hearts, study finds

Happy people are less likely to develop heart disease, a study today claimed.

Enthusiastic and contented individuals stand a better chance of avoiding the condition, findings published in the European Heart Journal reveal.

The study is the first to show an independent relationship between positive emotions and coronary heart disease.

Lead researcher Dr Karina Davidson said the findings suggest it may be possible to help prevent heart disease by boosting people's positive emotions.

She said: “We desperately need rigorous clinical trials in this area. If the trials support our findings, then these results will be incredibly important in describing specifically what clinicians and patients could do to improve health.”

The study focused on 1,739 healthy adults assessed over 10 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.

These feelings can be short-lived, but they are usually stable character traits, particularly in adulthood, the study said.

Positive affect is largely independent of negative affect, so someone who is generally happy and contented can also occasionally be anxious, angry or depressed.

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