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Erric Solomon

Can meditation increase longevity?

Sister Nicolette enjoys her 101st birthday Sister Nicolette enjoys her 101st birthday

There is a fascinating study,  it is part of a broader research project dubbed “The Nun Study”, in which the lifespan of  grumpy nuns is compared to happy ones.

Researchers found that in the 1930s and 40s the catholic nuns in this study all had to write short autobiographies. This was used as a basis for determining the positive or negative outlook on life that each nun had, because each autobio had a high degree of emotional content in it.

The nuns were especially good subjects because in all other areas they had a high degree of sameness: They didn’t smoke or drink, have children (no sex), they could be followed over about 70 years and their deaths recorded.

They studied around 180 nuns which is a reasonably good sample size.

To make a long story short: nuns who had a especially positive outlook on life lived an average of TEN YEARS longer the nuns who had an especially negative outlook. You can find the study here.

I think smoking only takes an average of three years off your life. Regular exercise adds something like another 3.5 years. But being very happy might add ten!

So what does this mean for us? Well maybe just as we spend time taking care of our bodies by eating well and exercising, mostly avoiding stuff like overindulging in alcohol and smoking cigarettes, we ought to be taking care  of our minds and mental wellbeing.


In a future post I will look at the connection between happiness and meditation.