People who experience a range of positive emotions in their daily lives - from enthusiasm to cheerfulness and calm - may have a lower risk of chronic diseases and premature death, a study has claimed.
Researchers from Cornell University in the US found that people who experience many kinds of happiness have lower levels of inflammation, compared to those who experience a narrower range of emotions.
Lower levels of inflammation are linked to a lower risk of premature death and chronic diseases like diabetes, researchers said.
“There are many kinds of happiness, and experiencing a diversity of emotional states might reduce a person’s vulnerability to psychopathology by preventing any one emotion from dominating their emotional life,” said Anthony Ong, professor at Cornell University.
The study sheds light on one potential biological pathway systemic inflammation - through which diversity in everyday positive emotional experiences might “get under the skin” to influence long-term health.
Ong and his colleagues analysed the connection between “emodiversity” - the breadth and abundance of different emotions people experience - and markers of inflammation in the body.
A person with low emodiversity feels about the same through most of the day, with emotions concentrated in just a few categories.
In contrast, a person with high emodiversity feels a range of emotions throughout the day, distributed evenly across the spectrum of feelings.
The researchers analysed data from 175 people aged 40 to 65 who reported on their negative and positive emotions for 30 days.
Each evening, they rated the extent to which they had experienced 16 positive emotions that day, from interested and determined to happy, excited, amused, inspired, alert, active and strong.
They were also asked to rate their experience of 16 negative emotions, including scared, afraid, upset, distressed, jittery, nervous and ashamed.
Their blood was drawn six months later and was tested for three inflammation markers that circulate in the blood.
Their range of negative emotions - regardless of whether it was narrow or wide - had no effect on inflammation.
However, people in the study who reported a wide range of positive emotions had lower levels of inflammation than those who said they felt a narrower range.
“Emotions serve functional roles for individuals, helping them prioritise and regulate behaviour in ways that optimise adjustment to situational demands,” said Ong, lead author of the study published in the journal Emotion.
“Our findings suggest that depletion or overabundance of positive emotions, in particular, has consequences for the functioning and health of one’s emotional ecosystem,” he said.
Growing evidence from other research has linked emotional processes with systemic inflammation, which has been shown to contribute to poor health, such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, rheumatoid disease and osteoporosis, and leads to a number of processes that play a major role in premature death.