Research conducted in the US has suggested that optimists live longer.
A new study has revealed that those who have a positive outlook are likely to outlive those with a more pessimistic approach to life, with optimists having a better chance of living to the age of 85 or over.
Researchers analysed data collected for two previous studies, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Veterans’ Health Study, evaluating information from 70,000 female nurses and 1,500 male veterans.
The team assessed optimism levels, as well as general health status and lifestyle habits. On average, men and women with the highest levels of optimism had a lifespan up to 15% longer than those with lower optimism levels, and they were much more likely to live to at least 85.
Research into life expectancy has largely focused on risk factors for disease and premature death, and the role of “positive psychosocial factors” has not been explored in depth.
Associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, Prof Lewina Lee, suggested that the findings of the study, in which she was involved, reveal that elevating levels of optimism can prolong life expectancy. Trials indicate that imagining a more positive future can increase levels of optimism, and subsequently, contribute to healthier ageing.
It is not fully understood why people who are more optimistic are more likely to live longer, but research suggests that there are several contributing factors. People who are optimistic tend to have goals and targets, which they are confident about achieving, levels of depression are lower among those with a positive outlook, and people with higher levels of optimism are better able to solve problems and cope with emotional struggles more effectively.
Prof Bruce Hood, chair of developmental psychology in society at the University of Bristol, said that the findings of this recent study support the notion that positive thinking offers health benefits. One factor to consider is the response to stress, which can have a dramatic impact on physical and mental health. People who don’t tend to dwell on negative life events cope with stress better, and are therefore less vulnerable to the effects