A new study out by the Harvard School of Public Health is indicating that optimism leads to a longer life. The study found that optimists have a 50-70% higher chance of making it to 85 years old, and overall an 11-15% greater lifespan.
They are defining optimism as “A general expectation that good things will happen or believing that the future will be favorable because we can control important outcomes.” The study followed 69,744 women and 1,429 men with the women being followed for 10 years and the men for 30 years. The results held true even after accounting for factors such as educational attainment, chronic diseases, depression and also health behaviors, such as alcohol use, exercise, diet and primary care visits.
If we consider it, this makes complete sense and goes along with a number of AGEIST study results. Namely that if someone believes they will live longer (optimistic) they will behave in a way that will cause that to happen. In the same way that if someone thinks it is game over in a few years, why bother going to the gym?
This is the first study we are aware of that has researched over a long period of time with a large number of respondents to track one’s point of view as it overlays one’s health outcomes. As we often say, we may not have control over some of what happens to us, but we absolutely have control over how we see it. Believing that the glass is half full or half empty has now been shown to have a material effect on one’s lifespan.
The good news is that there are all manners of small behavioral changes that can help with one’s outlook. Much of what we write about here at AGEIST is aimed exactly at this. Fear leads to pessimism. Reduce fear, and suddenly the world is looking a bit more filled with promise. Meditation, helping others, saying hello to one’s neighbors, getting out of the house, going to the gym, eating better…these are not only what optimistic people tend to do, these actions actually cause an optimistic outlook.
This is a choice. Some people may feel comfortable being pessimists; could be their default mode. This is their right and we support their decision to have any point of view they feel is correct for them. However, should they want to increase their chances of a longer and healthier life, we have some suggestions that we would be happy to share.