Why does optimism mean you will ‘live longer’?

Study finds that upbeat people can have a 15% longer lifespan

Happiness Elderly
(Image credit: Valery Hache/Getty)

Optimism can help you live longer, according to new research.

The study by American academics found that optimists have a higher chance, of between 50% and 70%, of living to 85 than those with a more pessimistic outlook.

It found that, on average, the most optimistic men and women had an 11 to 15% longer lifespan than other people who took part.

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The study, based on long-term tracking of 69,744 women and 1,429 men, concluded that people with greater optimism are much more likely to achieve “exceptional longevity”.

But why is this? Researchers speculated that those with an upbeat outlook tended to have healthier habits, such as exercise, and were less likely to smoke.

The Times has pointed to previous analysis suggesting that more optimistic people may be able to regulate their emotions and bounce back from difficulties more effectively.

The Guardian reminds us that people of an upbeat disposition have previously been found to have a lower risk of heart conditions and premature death.

Dr Catherine Hurt, an expert in health psychology at City, University of London, said: “The results suggest that as well as educating and encouraging people to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to maximise longevity we should also be promoting psychological wellbeing and the importance of optimism.”

Lewina Lee, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study, said: “This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan.”

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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