Elizabeth Gudrais in Harvard Magazine:
Studies that probe the link between happiness and health outcomes are still relatively rare in scientific work, but the new Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health aims to change that as it pursues a new approach to health maintenance: focusing on specific factors that promote the attainment and maintenance of high levels of well-being.
…The researchers also hope to solidify evidence that emotional health influences physical health, and not just the other way around. This notion was challenged last year, when The Lancet published a study finding no connection. But critics (including Kubzansky, who coauthored a letter of response in the same journal) took issue with the study’s methodology, noting that in adjusting for self-rated health (which is partly defined by emotional well-being), the study’s authors essentially adjusted for the very factor they were trying to investigate as a predictor. The debate exemplifies the tension underlying research in this area: the public seems to find the subject enormously compelling, but some segments of the scientific community remain skeptical. Kubzansky and her colleagues aim to amass enough evidence of biological connections between emotional and physical health that eventually the link will be taken for granted, much as exercise is generally regarded as beneficial. Yet even if that link is established, how can it be applied? If some people are innately happier than others, are the latter doomed to ill health?