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Is smiling the fountain of youth?

The old saying goes: Smile and the world smiles with you. Well, according to new research, smile and you may give yourself more time in this world as well.

Ernest Abel and Michael Krug of Wayne State University examined 230 photographs of 230 professional baseball players from the 1952 Baseball Registry, blew them up and fixed them on 3 by 5 cards. Five people went through the deck of cards, rating each player's expression, noting where they had no smile, a partial smile or a full smile.

The researchers then used a database of information about the players to examine the relationshiop between smile intensity and longevity, taking into consideration factors such as how long they played baseball, whether they had a college education and their weight. All but 46 of the players had died by the time the study began in 2009.

Players with a broad smile lived an average of five years longer than players who didn't smile, the researchers reported in the journal Psychological Science. Even the players who had half-smiles tended to live a couple years longer than the non-smilers, the researchers found.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that emotional states play a role in health and well-being, the researchers say. People with positive emotions tend to have more stable marriages and better interpersonal skills than those with negative emotions. Facial expressions have been shown to be a good barometer of emotions.

It may be that the players who tended to smile at least a little, and the most, in their official pictures tended to have sunnier dispositions overall.

By Rob Stein  |  March 31, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Aging , Psychology  
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