After controlling for age, gender, depression, certain diseases like cancer or diabetes, and health-related behaviors like smoking, study results showed that those folks who rated their feelings of happiness higher lived longer than those with lower scores.

“I was a bit surprised that the happiness effect was so strong, even among people who had chronic diseases,” says lead author Andrew Steptoe, professor of epidemiology and psychology.

The authors are quick to point out although the study was designed to look at correlations, not cause-and-effect relationships, it highlights the importance of a positive outlook on life. “Older people have needs that we in society try to supply like good healthcare and ensuring they have enough money to live on,” says Steptoe. “But maybe we should pay attention to their well being in terms of happiness, too.”