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Do optimists have a longer life span? Here's what the research says.

Do optimists have a longer life span? Here's what the research says.

anthony-loera anthony-loera
5 minute read

Do optimists really have a longer life span?

Do you see that the glasses are half empty instead of half empty?

Are you always looking at the bright side of things? If yes, you could be shocked to learn that this attitude could benefit your health.

 

Various research studies have shown that optimistic people have higher levels of well-being and sleep quality, lower stress, and even improved overall health and immunity. A recent study has proven that optimism is associated with a longer life span.

 

To conduct their study, researchers followed the lives of more than 160,000 women between 50 and 79 for a period that spanned 26 years. At the beginning of the study, participants took a self-report assessment of their optimism. Women who obtained the highest mark on the test were ranked as optimistic. Those with the lowest scores were classified as pessimistic.

 

In 2019, researchers followed up on the participants who had not died. They also assessed the lives of those who died. They discovered that those with the most optimism would live to the fullest. Furthermore, the optimistic were significantly more likely than pessimists to reach their 90s. Researchers call this "exceptional longevity," considering that the median lifespan of women is around 83 years in countries with developed economies.

 

What is specifically impressive is that the results were consistent even after accounting for other factors that can predict longevity, including education level, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and whether the sufferer was suffering from depression or chronic health issues.

 

The study, however, only was focused on women; it's unclear if this is the case for males. But another study that examined women and men also revealed those with the highest levels of optimism had an average of 11 percentage points and 15 percent higher life span than the most optimistic.

 

 

Is the fountain the source of youth?

 

What is the reason why those who are optimistic have longer lives? It would appear to have to do with their healthy living habits.

 

For instance, several studies have found that optimism relates to eating a balanced diet, maintaining physical activity, and being less likely to smoke cigarettes. These positive habits are acknowledged to improve heart health and lower the chance of developing cardiovascular disease, the most prevalent cause of death worldwide. A healthy lifestyle reduces the likelihood of other fatal diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

A good lifestyle could only be one of the reasons optimistic people have a longer life. The latest study showed that lifestyles account for only 24% of longevity compared to optimism. This suggests that various other factors may influence the longevity of optimists. [1]

 

Another possibility is due to how optimists handle stress. Optimistic people tend to tackle the problem face-to-face when confronted with an incredibly stressful situation. They employ strategies of adaptive coping, which help them find the cause of the stressor and look at the situation more relaxed. For instance, optimistic people can think through and devise strategies to handle the stressor, issue a request to help, or attempt to discover the "silver lining" in the stress-inducing situation. [2]

Each of these strategies is used extensively to decrease feelings of stress and the biological reactions that happen when we are stressed. These are physical responses to stress such as increased cortisol (sometimes known as "stress hormone"), increased cortisol (sometimes called "stress hormone"), an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and impaired immunity which can affect your health over time, and increase the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease. In short, how positive people handle stress can aid in preventing the adverse effects of stress.

 

 

Look on that bright side.

 

Researchers usually consider it a highly stable quality influenced partly by genes and early-childhood influences (such as being in a comfortable and warm relationship with your caregivers and parents). However, if you're not inclined to view the glass as complete, There are methods to boost your ability to feel positive.

 

Research suggests that optimism may change with time and can be developed through simple exercises. For instance, picturing and recording your "best possible self" (a future version of you who can achieve what you want) is a method that has been shown can dramatically boost optimism at the very least. For the most effective results, the goals must be optimistic and realistic instead of wishful thoughts. In the same way, just contemplating positive future things is also an excellent strategy to boost optimism.

 

It is also important to balance any expectations of success by having a clear understanding of what you are able and cannot be able to control. Positive thinking is strengthened when we see the positive outcomes we hope for, and it can diminish when those outcomes don't go the way we'd like to see them. Although further research is required, it's likely that consistently thinking about the best results possible and taking concrete steps toward achieving them will assist in creating a positive outlook.

 

However, this may be more difficult than it is for sure. If you're not naturally optimistic, the best chance to prolong your life is to follow a healthy and balanced lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, reducing stress, and sleeping well. Additionally, you can cultivate positive mindsets, and you could improve your chances of living longevity.

 

References:

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jopy.12247
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584911003121

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