Humanosity says…Good news for the cheery: A Boston study published this month suggests people who tend to be optimistic are likelier than others to live longer and better chances of living to be 85 years old or more.
That finding was independent of other factors thought to influence life’s length — such as “socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration, and health behaviours,” the researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said. Their work appears in a recent issue of the science journal PNAS.
Previous studies have shown that optimism can lead to individuals who have lower risks of depression, heart disease and a host of chronic conditions. However, they haven’t looked at what the effects of optimism on longevity might be.
The study included 69,744 women and 1,429 men. Both groups completed survey measures to assess their level of optimism, as well as their overall health and health habits such as diet, smoking and alcohol use.
The study tracked the long term health of women for 10 years and men for 30 years. They found that the most optimistic men and women lived on average 11-15% longer. Compared to the least optimistic group they had a far greater probability of reaching the age of 85.
Health outcomes from women in the study were tracked for 10 years, while the men’s health was followed for 30 years. Researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11-15% longer lifespan, and had far greater odds of reaching 85 years old, compared to the least optimistic group.
The study couldn’t prove exactly why optimism has this effect, what the actual mechanisms were but they felt that the correlation offered therapeutic possibilities. The reason is that optimism can be taught and that offering people lessons in optimism could have a significant impact on individual’s lives.