How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
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Smile and Survive
Smiling is good for you, but did you know how good? Can it make you live longer, for example?
Researchers Ernest Abel and Michael Kruger got five people to classify the smiles of 230 baseball players in photos from the 1952 Baseball Register into three types: no smile, half smile (mouth only), and genuine 'Duchenne' smile (muscles contracted around the mouth and corners of the eyes). Remarkably, on looking at death rates, those with the genuine Duchenne smile were found to be half as likely to die in any one year as the others. In hard data terms, the average life-span of the 63 deceased non-smilers was 72.9 years compared with 75 years for the 64 partial smilers and 79.9 years for the 23 Duchenne smilers. A subsequent study looked at attractiveness and longevity, but found no correlation.
Why might this happen? A likely reason seems that people with a sunnier disposition suffer less stress, which is related to a number of diseases and can also affect the immune system. Smiles in photos have also been shown to predict other stressful things like divorce (Hertenstein et al 2009), and general life satisfaction (Seder and Oishi, 2012). A related point is that 'nobody likes a misery-guts' and happy people are more popular. A stronger social network is a known factor in longevity, which is another reason to be happy.
The lesson is clear: smile, be happy and live longer!
Hertenstein, M. J., Hansel, C. A., Butts, A. M. and Hile, S. N., (2009). Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life. Motivation and Emotion, 33, 2, 99-105
Seder, J. P. and Oishi, S. (2012). Intensity of smiling in facebook photos predicts future life satisfaction, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 4, 407-413