Providing a Unique Opportunity for Rigorous Scientific Understanding of the Connections between Psychological Well-being and Physical Health
The Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness (the “Center”) was officially opened at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on 11 May 2016 in Boston. A Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony was officiated on the day by Mr. Sammy Lee, Chairman and Managing Director of LKK Health Products Group, together with Professor David Hunter, Acting Dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Naming the Center after their business founder, Lee Kum Sheung, the Lee Kum Kee Family has donated more than HK$162 million (US$21 million) to support efforts in exploring and understanding the interplay between positive psychological well-being, positive social environments and physical health. Earlier on 22 April, a signing ceremony was held in Hong Kong to announce the establishment of the Center.
Exploring How Positive Emotion Affects Human Health
A number of research studies over the past few years have suggested that emotional well-being and happiness may have direct or indirect impact on physical health, influencing whether someone will go on to develop some of the world’s biggest killers, including heart disease, obesity, hypertension, smoking related diseases, suicide, and conditions related to alcohol dependency and binge drinking.
Research published in 2013 surveying individuals from 142 countries has concluded that emotions matter to health everywhere, regardless of countries, regions, or levels of economic development, and that in fact the effects of emotion on health may be even more potent in less-developed countries. Moreover, a recent study spanning 162 counties in China also found that the connection between physical health and emotions, both positive and negative, was common across different levels of socio-economic development. 1,2
More key facts and related figures can be found at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/health-happiness/background-information/key-facts-and-figures-on-diseases-and-conditions-affected-by-happiness/
While a growing body of research suggests positive emotions can promote good health and negative emotions can lead to poor health outcomes, there is still a lack of clear scientific consensus regarding the relationship between health and happiness. Medical and psychological practice and research have traditionally focused on the diseases and deficits that cause poor health. But there is real value in focusing on the positive side as well—the assets that keep us healthy or help us recover more quickly from disease and injury. More rigorous research is urgently needed to understand these positive assets and how to promote them and help make them attainable for millions of people around the world. The establishment of the new Center offers a great opportunity to solve this problem. This will help people not merely enjoy a life without disease, but to live a truly healthy and happy life.
Bringing an Interdisciplinary Approach to Happiness and Health
The ultimate goal of the Center is to improve the lives and health of people around the globe, and make discoveries that can inform personal behaviors, medical care, public health programs, and wide-ranging public policies not traditionally associated with health care and medicine. The Initial efforts will focus on three research projects, namely basic science research, intervention research and translational and communication research.
Basic Science Research will examine the relationship between positive psychological well-being and cardiovascular health. One longer-term goal of this project is the development and validation of a comprehensive positive psychological well-being index, or “happiness index”. It is expected to provide a powerful research tool to promote understanding of both the social and environmental determinants of well-being.
Intervention Research aims at understanding the effects of mindfulness practice on human choice, behavior, and health—an important area of research with great potential for large-scale impact. The study will initially focus on students in therapeutic programs in Boston (with possible expansion to other populations in Boston and relevant populations in Hong Kong).
Translational and Communication Research will undertake a rigorous exploration of the role of health communications in influencing physical and psychosocial well-being with the goal of building an evidence base and informing effective communication interventions. The project will be divided into three phases, including investigation of current evidence, conducting primary research, as well as developing and testing models.
“By leveraging what is known together with new research discoveries, we believe the new Center will develop evidence-based recommendations and interventions that can demonstrably improve the health and well-being of individuals and entire populations,” said David Hunter, acting dean of the Harvard Chan School. “Our goal is to bring about enlightened public policies and public health programs that can affect the health of large numbers of people, as well as set new priorities in medical practice and personal behaviors that can help individuals live longer, healthier lives.”
To learn more about the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness, please visit the Center’s website at www.hsph.harvard.edu/health-happiness.
About Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives—not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health.
About the Lee Kum Kee Family
In 1888, Mr. Lee Kum Sheung invented oyster sauce in the southern Chinese city of Nanshui, Guangdong Province, and established the Lee Kum Kee business. Over the 128 years since then, five generations of the Lee Kum Kee Family have adhered to the core values of “Si Li Ji Ren” (considering others’ interests) with constant practices of giving back to the community.
At present, the Family owns Lee Kum Kee Sauce Group and LKK Health Products Group, two multinational companies headquartered in Hong Kong, that respectively specialize in sauces and condiments, and Chinese herbal health products and services, Chinese herbal plantations, mobile internet platforms, and property investment. The companies’ well-known registered trademarks include “Lee Kum Kee,” “Infinitus,” and “HeHa.”
- Is the Emotion-Health Connection a “First-World Problem”?Psychological Science April 2013 24: 544-549, first published on February 26, 2013
- Yu, Z.H & Wang, F. 2016. Socio-economic development and emotion-health connection revisited: a multilevel modelling analysis using data from 162 counties in China. BMC Public Health. 16:257