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The secret to happiness? Be a good person

The secret to happiness? Be a good person

Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology journal has recently published the results of an interdisciplinary research project, carried out by a group of researchers led by Dr hab. Dorota Węziak-Białowolska, Prof. UJ. According to the study, high standards of moral character are prospectively associated with increased sense of well-being and lower risk of depression.

The paper Prospective associations between strengths of moral character and health. Longitudinal evidence from survey and insurance claims data presents the results of a study which involved psychological, sociological and epidemiological research.

Research on the role of strengths of moral character for health and well-being was carried out by Dr hab. Węziak-Białowolska, a statistician, economist and health sociologist. The study was conducted in collaboration with an international team comprising researchers from Harvard University and VIA Institute on Character. It resulted in a series of four papers. Dr hab. Węziak-Białowolska started investigating this issue at Harvard University, and now continues her research at the JU Centre for Evaluation and Analysis of Public Policies within the framework of the Positive Health Program financed by the Norway Grants (2020/37/K/HS6/02772).

Although prior evidence on the role of moral character in health was mostly experimental, it was conducted on small samples and focused on the risk of depression. Large scale observational data were also used in some studies, but the results were mostly based on cross-sectional data and self-reports on health conditions.

Dr hab. Węziak-Białowolska with colleagues adopted a different approach. Not only did they analyse longitudinal data, but also managed to merge the survey data on character strengths with information about diseases derived from medical records, which is unique. This way, the team could reliably estimate incidence rate of an illness based on medical diagnoses.

‘Our analyses have shown that people living according to their moral compass not only reported better physical and mental health, but also experience much lower risks of being diagnosed with depression’, Węziak-Białowolska said.

‘We have also gained some insight into the association between the preference for delayed gratification and lower risk of anxiety as well as using one’s character strengths and lower risk of cardiovascular diseases’, added a team member Dr hab. Piotr Białowolski, Prof. ALK from Kozminski University.

It is worth mentioning that another paper co-authored by Dr hab. Węziak-Białowolska, entitled Character strengths involving an orientation to promote good can help your health and well-being. Evidence from two longitudinal studies, won the 2021 Paper of the Year Award given by the American Journal of Health Promotion as well as The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO).

 

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