Harvard’s ‘happiness center’ puts positive spin on health research

| | April 27, 2016
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Professor Laura Kubzansky will codirect a new Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard’s public health school. The center opened thanks to a $21 million gift from the Lee Kum Kee family of China. I (Melissa Bailey) caught up with Kubzansky in her office, just after she returned from an opening celebration in Hong Kong.

MB: Why do you need a center to study happiness?

Medicine and public health “tend to be very problem-focused,” Kubzansky said. “People are trying to fix a disease, fix a problem.” There isn’t much funding for research about optimal health. The center aims to figure out how positive factors in everyday life — such as a meaningful job, or strong family ties — affect our bodies.

MB: What’s the most surprising finding about optimism you’ve come across?

“That optimism cut people’s risk of heart disease in half.” Kubzansky published that finding in 2001 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Previously, she said, “people kind of thought, as long as you’re not depressed, you’re OK.” But her study showed optimism has a protective quality — and that “the absence of something bad is not the same as the presence of something good.”

Read full, original post: Why Harvard is opening a happiness center

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