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Study: Want to live longer? Be more grateful

Last Updated 6 days by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — If you want to live longer, try to be more grateful. That’s the findings in a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.  

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health followed nearly 50,000 female nurses between 69 and 96 years old over a period of about three years. They found those who scored in the highest third for gratitude had a 9% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those in the lowest third. 

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“Prior research has shown an association between gratitude and lower risk of mental distress and greater emotional and social wellbeing. However, its association with physical health is less understood,” says lead author Ying Chen, a research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology, in a media release. “Our study provides the first empirical evidence on this topic, suggesting that experiencing grateful affect may increase longevity, among older adults.”

By “gratitude,” the researchers discovered that it meant more than just saying “thank you.” They found that it’s a deeper emotional state that involves recognizing and appreciating the positive aspects of life, whether they come from other people, places, or other intangible things. Researchers say this thankful outlook appears to set off a chain reaction of beneficial effects throughout the body and mind.

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“Prior research indicates that there are ways of intentionally fostering gratitude, such as writing down or discussing what you are grateful for a few times a week,” Chen says. “Promoting healthy aging is a public health priority, and we hope further studies will improve our understanding of gratitude as psychological resource for enhancing longevity.”

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Researchers aid one way gratitude might extend life is by promoting better cardiovascular health. The study found that grateful women had a 15% lower risk of dying from heart disease. This aligns with previous research showing that gratitude is associated with lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and healthier lipid profiles — all factors that contribute to a healthy heart.