The Daytracker Study is an investigation of the association of affective well-being and biology. There is converging evidence that positive affect is associated with better health and reduced risk of serious physical illness and this study is designed to examine how experiences in everyday life influence biology. The underlying hypothesis of the study is that positive psychological states stimulate advantageous biological responses which may reduce the risk of illness. The Daytracker Study tests how the activities and experiences, including feelings of positive wellbeing such as happiness, in everyday life influence biological correlates of wellbeing.

The study was originally carried out with 100 women working in London. Participants completed a series of paper questionnaires of psychological states and traits in the laboratory, and this was followed by two days of ambulatory measurements of mood and biology. Measures of mood were obtained using the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) online; the DRM provides a full record of activities and affect across the previous day. Participants also collected saliva samples for the measurement of cortisol and wore a small device (the Actiheart) that recorded their heart rate, heart rate variability, and physical activity.

The study was then expanded into an international comparison, involving 200 women from similar backgrounds in London, Budapest and Amsterdam. The same psychological and physiological measures were applied in each country, in order to assess the cross-national consistency of associations between well-being and biology. A smaller study has also been carried out in Southern Japan. Primary data collection was completed in 2009, but data continue to be analyzed.

This study is jointly funded by the National Institute of Aging in the USA and the UK Economic and Social Research Council. Collaborators include Professor Jane Wardle (UCL), Professor Sir Michael Marmot (UCL), Professor Daniel Kahneman (Princeton University) and Professor Arthur Stone (Stony Brook University). People involved in this study include Samantha Dockray, Nina Grant and Romano Endrighi. Data collection in Budapest was coordinated by Gyöngyvér Salavecz and Maria Kopp from the Institute of Behavioral Sciences at Semmelweis University, and in Amsterdam by Gonneke Willemsen from the Department of Biological Psychology at the VU University Amsterdam.

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