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Love increases lifespan

19th March 2007

Love plays a bigger role in life expectancy than smoking, says a government expert.

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According to Gaby Hinsliff, The Observer’s political editor, those who are loved by someone are considerably more likely to be alive in a decade than those who are alone. She bases her article on work produced by David Halpern, a senior policy advisor to Downing Street’s strategy unit, who says that those who feel loved are happier people who live longer and more productive lives than their lonely counterparts. Mr Halpern told Ms Hinsliff, “There is a pretty strong relationship between subjective wellbeing and longevity. The single strongest predictor of whether you will be alive in 10 years' time is whether you say yes to the question, ‘does somebody love you?’?

Mr Halpern’s surprising work is being taken very seriously by ministers trying to determine what makes us all tick and is likely to be at the heart of, what Ms Hinsliff describes as, “the policy review designed to establish Tony Blair’s legacy.?

Ministers are now looking at ways in which to motivate citizens to be kinder towards each other, perhaps by offering ‘community credits’ to those involved in good works. Acts of kindness have been found to benefit both the giver and receiver and ministers are considering ideas from around the globe. For example, the Japanese government now funds a community scheme whereby couples who live too far from their own elderly parents adopt a local elderly stranger and thereby earn credits to purchase similar help for their own relative in another part of the country.

Mr Halpern argues that a pro-happiness government would alleviate some of the major causes of melancholy amongst us and produce a more community-minded and cohesive society. As Ms Hinsliff says to conclude her article, “To do yourself a favour - first do a favour for someone else. It could just save your life.?

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