Are wise people happier and healthier?

Excerpt: Research studies have found wisdom is associated with better physical and mental health, and greater happiness. High life engagement, positive problem-solving skills, social and emotional intelligence, and effective coping with hardship are factors associated with wisdom that contribute to better health and longevity. People can develop and grow wisdom by creating meaning and purpose, doing good things for others, regulating emotions, reflecting and being self-aware.


What is wisdom?

Wisdom is a human trait that includes positive social behaviours, emotional regulation, self-reflection, acceptance of uncertainty, decisiveness, spirituality and resilience,* according to a 2019 Harvard Review of Psychiatry study.

The study reported that wisdom is associated with better physical and mental health, happiness and life satisfaction.* Researchers also found wisdom often increases with age because individuals learn through life experience, which suggests different aspects of wisdom can be acquired and developed.

Why are wise people happier?

A study by Montreal’s Concordia University identified some key wisdom-related factors* – high life engagement, a sense of personal control, and positive, problem-focused coping skills – contributed to greater happiness and emotional well-being.

Why are wise people healthier?

Wisdom helps people cope better with hardship, adversity and challenges in life, allowing them to stay calm and emotionally balanced in tough times, and maintain good emotional and psychological health,* according to a study in The Journals of Gerontology.

A University of Waterloo study reported that wise reasoning is also associated with greater longevity.* The researchers suggested that the social and emotional intelligence associated with wisdom contributes to better health and longer life.

Cultivating wisdom

People can develop and grow wisdom throughout life,* says Harvard Review of Psychiatry, by cultivating some of its key components:

  1. Engage in prosocial behaviours. Show compassion, empathy and altruism by doing positive things for others,* says Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

  2. Create meaning and purpose. People who engage in meaningful activities are generally happier, experience more positive emotions and less likely to be depressed,* according to Concordia University.

  3. Regulate emotions. Embrace positive emotions. Manage negative emotions, not by suppressing them, but by becoming aware of feelings as they occur and controlling how you react,* advises The Stein Institute for Research on Aging.

  4. Reflect and be self-aware. Look at yourself objectively, recognizing strengths and weaknesses,* so you can accept responsibility and not blame others, advises University of Florida.

  5. Accept uncertainty. Open your mind to diverse views, even if you have strong opinions about an issue, and be prepared to change your mind* if new, persuasive information is presented, says The Stein Institute for Research on Aging.

  6. Seek counsel. People often reason more wisely about other people’s social or personal dilemmas than their own,* according to University of Waterloo. Consult a wise friend to get some emotional distance before making an important personal decision, suggests Waterloo.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:


1. Medical Express. “Being wise is good for your health – review looks at emerging science of wisdom.” (2019), online: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-05-wise-good-healthreview-emerging-science.html
2. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. “The emerging empirical science of wisdom.” (2019), online: https://journals.lww.com/hrpjournal/Pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2019&issue=05000&article=00001&type=Fulltext&PRID=HRP_PR_51419
3. Journal of Happiness Studies. “Why are wise people happier? An explanatory model of wisdom and emotional well-being in older adults.” (2013), online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257589184_Why_are_Wise_People_Happier_An_Explanatory_Model_of_Wisdom_and_Emotional_Well-Being_in_Older_Adults
4. The Journals of Gerontology. “Wisdom and hard times: The ameliorating effect of wisdom on the negative association between adverse life events and well-being.” (2016), online: https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/article/73/8/1374/2328820
5. Journal of Experimental Psychology General. “A route to well-being: Intelligence vs. wise reasoning.” (2013), online: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230621584_A_Route_to_Well-Being_Intelligence_Versus_Wise_Reasoning
6. The Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of California, San Diego. “Wisdom profiles: Dilip Jeste.”(2019), online: https://evidencebasedwisdom.com/wisdom-profiles-dilip-jeste/
7. University of Florida. “Monika Ardelt on how to become wise.” (2017), online: https://candowisdom.com/tag/monika-ardelt
8. Association for Psychological Science. “The (paradoxical) wisdom of Solomon.” (2015), online: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/were-only-human/the-paradoxical-wisdom-of-solomon.html