It’s been said you get from life what you expect. And, if that is true it follows that you would want to view life in the most positive way. That means being optimistic. New evidence shows that the more you think life is good or even great, the better your chance of living longer.
A study followed more than 69,744 female health professionals age 58 to 86 coupled with 1,429 male veterans ages 41 to 90. The subjects were followed from 10 to 30 years. They were asked to answer questions to measure their levels of optimism. Those who reported the highest level of optimism were 50% to 70% more likely to live to age 85 or older compared to those who reported the lowest levels of optimism.
Another way of looking at these data is that lifespan was 11% to 15% percent higher for the most optimistic segment of participants.
What is Optimism?
Optimism is the expectation that something good will happen or that the future will be favorable. What is encouraging about this study is level of optimism may be modifiable. In other words, optimism can be taught or learned, at least to some degree.
Some studies show that writing exercises, mediation, and talk therapy can enhance people’s optimism.
Exactly how optimism leads to a longer lifespan it not entirely clear. But, it may promote resilient aging. We do know that stress is contributes to disease and shortens lifespan. Optimistic individuals appear to have better coping skills when it comes to dealing with stress.
Optimism enables one to better endure any short-term pain or setback. Optimistic people recover faster from stressors and display less extreme emotional responses to negative stressors.
Also, optimistic people tend to have healthier healthier habits. These include less smoking and alcohol use among the optimistic people. Optimistic people are more likely to exercise and consume healthier diets than those who are more pessimistic.
In fact, when these health habits were controlled or taken into the account, the link between optimism and longevity was not as strong. So clearly health habits play an important role in determining lifespan. No surprise there.
Optimism and Health
Other studies looking at optimism have concluded:
- Highly optimistic people have lower death rates.
- Optimistic people who have undergone coronary bypass surgery are half as likely to to require re-hospitalization.
- The most optimistic men are 1/2 as likely to have heart disease compared to the most pessimistic men.
- Optimistic individuals have lower blood pressure.
- Optimistic individuals are less likely to develop chronic disease.
Live longer. Become more optimistic!