Sarah Pressman, a professor of psychology at University of California, Irvine, and Shane J. Lopez, a Gallup senior scientist, said the relationship between emotions and health around the world cannot simply be explained by a country's gross domestic product.
In fact, the association between positive emotions and health is even stronger in low-GDP countries than in high-GDP countries, the researchers said.
The findings were based on Gallup surveys conducted in 142 countries in 2009 via the Gallup World Poll that asked people whether they experienced positive emotions -- such as happiness, enjoyment, and love -- and negative emotions -- such as sadness, stress, and worry -- a lot "yesterday." Gallup also asked respondents about their health and their basic access to safety, shelter and food.
The links between self-reported emotions and heath were stronger than the relative impact of hunger, homelessness and threats to safety on health, the researchers said.
The link between positive emotions and health was stronger in low-GDP countries than in high-GDP countries.
"Taken together, these results suggest that emotions are an important component of health everywhere. Being sad is not just an inconvenience, but is an important component of physical health that warrants attention from public health officials, the medical community, and social support systems," the researchers said.
The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, found people in many poor countries were healthier than their country's wealth might suggest they would be and attributable to the role of positive emotions in their lives.