If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research

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If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research

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Summary: 

We review evidence on whether subjective well-being (SWB) can influence health, why it might do so, and what we know about the conditions where this is more or less likely to occur. This review also explores how various methodological approaches inform the study of the connections between subjective well-being and health and longevity outcomes. Our review of this growing literature indicates areas where data are substantial and where much more research is needed. We conclude that SWB can sometimes influence health, and review a number of reasons why it does so. A key open question is when it does and does not do so – in terms of populations likely to be affected, types of SWB that are most influential (including which might be harmful), and types of health and illnesses that are most likely to be affected. We also describe additional types of research that are now much needed in this burgeoning area of interest, for example, cross-cultural studies, animal research, and experimental interventions designed to raise long-term SWB and assess the effects on physical health. This research area is characterized both by potentially extremely important findings, and also by pivotal research issues and questions.

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