Longing for longevity? Keep on smiling

A study shows baseball players with the biggest photographed smiles lived longer.
Written by Melanie D.G. Kaplan, Inactive
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If spring, baseball season and single-digit days until the iPad launch aren’t enough to generate a grin, maybe this news will make you smile.

Researchers at Wayne State University conducted a study that shows bigger smiles lead to longer lives. The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, focused specifically on the photos of Major League Baseball players, because detailed statistics were available for each player.

The researchers studied photographs in the Baseball Register of 230 players who began their careers in pro ball before 1950. They rated the smiles (no smile, partial smile or full smile) and compared that to data about player deaths between 2006 and 2009, accounting for other factors that could affect a player’s life, such as year of birth, body mass index, career length, marital status and college attendance. They found big-smiling players lived an average of 79.9 years, compared to 75 for partial smilers to 72.9 years for those who weren’t smiling at all.

The authors of the study note that previous studies have found positive emotions to be correlated with marriage stability and satisfaction, but this smile study is the first to link smile intensity to a biological outcome: longevity.

The researchers also noted that they didn’t know whether the baseball players’ expressions were spontaneous or in response to a photographer’s request to smile.

“However, the fact that relatively few individuals had full Duchenne smiles indicates that even if smiles were requested, smile intensity reflected a general underlying disposition. If the phenomenology and expressions of emotion are hardwired, individuals whose underlying emotional disposition is reflected in voluntary or involuntary Duchenne smiles may be basically happier than those with less intense smiles, and hence more predisposed to benefit from the effects of positive emotionality.”

Photo credit: Washington Nationals

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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