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Big Smile, Long Life

People who smile a lot are usually happier, have more stable personalities, more stable marriages, better cognitive skills and better interpersonal skills, according to research.

Science has uncovered another benefit of a happy face — people who have big smiles live longer. Researchers at Wayne State University used information from the Baseball Register to look at photos of 230 players who began their careers in professional baseball before 1950.

The players' photos were enlarged, and a rating of their smile intensity was made (big smile, no smile, partial smile). The players smile ratings were then compared with data from deaths that occurred from 2006 through 2009. The researchers corrected their analyses to account for other factors associated with longevity, such as body mass index, career length, career precocity and college attendance.

For players who had died, the researchers found longevity ranged from an average of 72.9 years for players with no smiles (63 players) to 75 years for players with partial smiles (64 players) to 79.9 years for players with big smiles (23 players).

This isn’t a bunch of psycho-hooey, the authors said. Smiles reflect positive emotion, which is linked to physical and mental well-being. But they added: "The data source provided no information as to whether expressions were spontaneous or in response to a photographer's request to smile."

Still, big smiles are more likely to reflect true happiness than partial smiles.

(Maybe non-smilers were thinking about their batting averages.)


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