Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Being optimistic may help you live longer, new study suggests

Those with a glass half-full outlook can live up to 15 per cent longer, according to new research

Optimistic people have 15 per cent more chance of reaching their 85th birthday, new research suggests. Getty Images
Optimistic people have 15 per cent more chance of reaching their 85th birthday, new research suggests. Getty Images

There are two types of people in this world: the glass half-full people and the glass half-empty people. And which end of the scale you sit at could determine how long you live, according to new research.

A team of researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found that optimists live longer, having a better chance of reaching 85 or older. While previous studies have found that people of an upbeat disposition are less likely to suffer heart conditions or face premature death, this is the first time positivity has been linked to longer life.

“A lot of evidence suggests that exceptional longevity is usually accompanied by a longer span of good health and living without disability, so our findings raise an exciting possibility that we may be able to promote healthy and resilient ageing by cultivating psychosocial assets such as optimism,” said Lewina Lee, lead author of the study.

The results were gathered by looking at the data from two previous long-term studies; one that focused on a group of 1,429 male participants from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study (NAS), and one that focused on 69,744 women from the Nurse's Health Study (NHS). The nurses, who had an average age of 70, were followed for 10 years between 2004 and 2014, and assessed for levels of optimism. The men, with an average age of 62, were assessed for optimism in 1986 and followed until 2016, with researchers tracking any deaths during the period.

The results found that of the women, those who fell into the most optimistic category had a lifespan that was on average 15 per cent longer than those in the least optimistic category. For men, those in the most optimistic category were living an average of 11 per cent longer than those in the lowest category.

The study took into account factors including age, sex, race, education, depression and other health conditions present at the outset. It also looked at levels of exercise, diet, smoking and alcohol consumption, as researchers concluded that more optimistic participants may lead healthier lives. Even when these factors were considered, results were still pronounced.

“Optimistic individuals tend to have goals and the confidence to reach them; thus, optimism may foster health-promoting habits and bolster resistance of unhealthy impulses through greater engagement with one's goals, more efficacious problem-solving, and adjustment of goals when they become unattainable," the study said.

Updated: August 27, 2019 12:57 PM

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