07:28am Friday 13 December 2019

Study Finds Link Between Smiling and Longevity

Researchers at Wayne State University examining a database of baseball players  found that people who smile in photographs live longer than those who don’t. This is the first study to find a link between smile intensity and a biological outcome.

Facial expressions are a barometer of emotions. Just as emotions vary in form and intensity, facial expressions do, too, so it’s possible to use facial expressions to gauge another person’s emotional state. How we express these emotions can also greatly affect our lives. Previous research has shown that women with more intense smiles were more likely to stay married.

For this study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientists Ernest Abel and Michael Kruger took photographs of 230 players from the 1952 Baseball Register and blew them up to fit on 3×5 file cards. Five people each went through the deck of cards, rating each athlete’s expression as: no smile; a partial smile, in which only the corners of the mouth were lifted; or a full smile, in which the corners of the mouth and the corners of the eyes moved.

The researchers used a database of players to compare smile intensity to longevity, controlling for several factors, including how long they played baseball, whether they had a college education, and body-mass index. All but 46 had died by the time the study began, in 2009. The researchers found that the players with broad smile lived an average of five years longer than players who didn’t smile. Even baseball players with partial smiles did better than players who managed no smile at all.

A broad smile – in which the corners of the eyes move – is hard to fake. “Some people are able to really smile and some people just don’t have it in them,” says Abel. That happiness seems to carry over to a longer life.



For more information about this study, please contact: Ernest Abel (ad6042@wayne.edu).

Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. For a copy of the article “Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevityand access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Catherine Allen-West at 202-293-9300 or cwest@psychologicalscience.org

Contact: Catherine Allen-West
Association for Psychological Science

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