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Enjoying life and living longer

Author: Andrew Steptoe
Institution: University of Sheffield
Type of case study: Research

About the research

As the UK population grows older, researchers are becoming more interested in what is allowing us to live longer, healthier lives.

Two researchers from University College London are interested in the role played by positive well-being and happiness in the survival of older people.

Using longitudinal data on ageing hosted by the UK Data Service they looked at how a cohort of those aged 50 and older living in England rated their enjoyment of life on a four-item questionnaire, and related this to their survival over the next seven years.

Only 6.4 per cent of those who were in the top quarter of enjoyment ratings died in the next seven years, compared with 20.4 per cent of respondents in the lowest quarter of enjoyment ratings. Differences were statistically significant after factors such as health at baseline, age, education, employment, smoking, physical activity and alcohol consumption had been taken into account.

These findings suggest that positive feelings such as enjoyment of life are relevant to health and survival at older ages.


The researchers used the pleasure scale from the CASP19 questionnaire included in the ELSA. They analysed the answers and subsequent survival rates of 9,025 men and women aged 50 and older included in the dataset.

Co-variables included in the analysis were age, gender, wealth, education, employment, limiting long-standing illness, doctor-diagnosed cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, chronic lung disease, history of depression and depressive symptoms, smoking, physical activity and alcohol intake.


Steptoe, A. and Wardle, J. (2012) ‘Enjoying life and living longer’, Archive of Internal Medicine (now JAMA Internal Medicine), 172(3), pp. 273-275, doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.1028 Retrieved 6 September 2013 from