This meta-analysis synthesized studies on emotional well-being as predictor of the prognosis of physical illness, while in addition evaluating the impact of putative moderators, namely constructs of well-being, health-related outcome, year of publication, follow-up time and methodological quality of the included studies. The search in reference lists and electronic databases (Medline and PsycInfo) identified 17 eligible studies examining the impact of general well-being, positive affect and life satisfaction on recovery and survival in physically ill patients. Meta-analytically combining these studies revealed a Likelihood Ratio of 1.14, indicating a small but significant effect. Higher levels of emotional well-being are beneficial for recovery and survival in physically ill patients. The findings show that emotional well-being predicts long-term prognosis of physical illness. This suggests that enhancement of emotional well-being may improve the prognosis of physical illness, which should be investigated by future research. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011.