Joy Can Break Your Heart, Says New Study

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Despite the whirligig nature of health columns, where foods can be denounced as murderers and hailed as lifesavers in the space of a week, there are a few things that could be safely regarded as wholly beneficial. Green vegetables are one such seemingly universal good, as is water – and, until this week, most would have accepted happiness’s place on the list.

Well, strike it off because, according to a new Swiss study, even joy can be bad for you. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a rare heart condition also known as broken heart syndrome, is triggered by an emotional event, and the research undertaken by University Hospital Zurich suggests these can be joyous occasions as well as sad ones.

Three-quarters of cases of takotsubo cardiomyopathy are caused by stress, but the study of 1,750 patients found that around one in 20 cases were brought on by joy, and they even provided a list of happy occasions found to cause the condition during the study.

  • A birthday party
  • A son’s wedding
  • Meeting a friend after 50 years
  • Becoming a grandmother
  • A favourite rugby team winning a game
  • Winning a casino jackpot
  • A CT scan giving the all-clear from another condition

However, although the problem can be fatal, it is normally only temporary and generally harmless. Best play it safe and try to not to be too happy about that though.

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The Benefits of Happiness

Generally happiness has only been shown to have a positive effect on health in the past. In particular, a 2012 review by the Harvard School of Public Health of more than 200 studies found a link between positive psychological well-being and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

RECOMMENDED: How to Be Happier

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.