New research suggests that an upbeat view towards life might increase your odds for longevity. The findings come from a study looking at optimism and longevity among nearly 1,400 men and 70,000 women. The current study builds on previous research which linked higher levels of an optimistic view to reduced risks of premature death and chronic illness.
The study conducted by the U.S. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare Center, suggests that optimistic people are much more likely to achieve exceptional longevity. Exceptional longevity was defined as living to the age of 85 or older.
When compared to the least optimistic people, the most optimistic women and men were 50% to 70% more likely to live to the advanced milestone. The study also found that 11% to 15% were more likely to live longer overall.
The study’s results held up even when other influences such as marital status, chronic health issues, depression, educational background and friendships were taken into account. Regardless of a person’s habits, optimism was shown to also be a powerful predictor of longevity. This included alcohol and tobacco use, eating well, exercise and getting regular medical care.
Previous studies have mostly focused on problems or deficits which increase the risk of dying. The new study was novel in that the team considered the benefits of optimism, a psychological asset, in promoting longevity.
The team suggests that their findings may point towards new interventions that may encourage optimism and thus extend life. These include practices such as meditation and a variety of psychotherapy programs.
They also surmised that optimism is important after they analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a study which focused on women, and a Veteran Affairs Normative Aging Study which focused on men.
The women in the study were from 58 to 86 years old with an average age of 70 when they had their health habits and overall health and optimistic outlook first assessed. They were then followed for 10 years.
The men in the study were from 41 to 90 years old with an average age of 62 when they were given a similar assessment and a physical examination in 1986. They were then followed for 30 years.
At the conclusion of the 2 tracking periods, the research team discovered for both women and men the findings were both roughly the same. The individuals that were more optimistic had the greater chances for living longer and also a greater chance for reaching the exceptional age.
However, the results don’t necessarily mean that the more pessimistic a person is the more likely they are doomed for a shorter life. The team only found an association as opposed to a cause and effect link. The association between exceptional longevity and optimism was independent of depression. This suggests that optimism is more than simply the absence of depression. Even those who struggle with depression might work longevity wonders even with a little optimism
There are variety of reasons why optimism can breed longevity. Generally, optimistic people experience less stress since they don’t typically dwell on negatives. They also can feel more empowered to beat hurdles and are less likely to give up. And they will bounce back more quickly from setbacks and problems. Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies and is a killer.
Optimistic people are more likely to take good care of themselves, have an easier time keeping and making friends which is a well studied source of longevity and health. They are less likely to experience feelings of hopelessness and depression which are linked to higher rates of disease and poorer health.
The team acknowledged that access to good food, education and money and then also genetics can have a big impact on longevity. Unlike good genes however, gratitude and optimism and be learned!
To view the original scientific study click below
Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women.