Optimistic people are more likely to live longer, according to a new US study. Those with a positive mindset were found, on average, to have an 11-15 per cent longer lifespan than pessimists, with more chance of living until the age of 85.
Optimists were found to better at controlling their emotions, so are therefore more adept at dealing with stress – a feeing that effects the immune system – reports the BBC.
The study was conducted using two groups of people enlisted for different studies – 70,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 1,500 men in the Veterans’ Health Study. Their levels of optimism and overall health were accessed, as well as exercise and diets, and how much they smoked and drank.
“Our findings speak to the possibility that raising levels of optimism may promote longevity and healthy ageing,” said Professor Lewina Lee, associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, who worked on the study.
“Evidence from randomised control trials suggest that interventions, such as imagining a future in which everything has turned out well, or more intensive cognitive-behavioural therapy, can increase levels of optimism.”
She added that the study didn’t manage to uncover the reasons as to why optimists live longer, although she added that positive people are more likely to have the confidence to reach goals and are “more effective in problem-solving”.
Professor Hood, chair of developmental psychology in society at the University of Bristol, runs a course called “the science of happiness” and reiterated the idea that optimists deal with stress better.
“I think that one causal mechanism could be that optimists cope better with stress, and this could be by avoiding rumination about negative life events,” he said.
“Stress impacts on the immune system and so there is a possibility that this means that optimists cope better with infections. A number of studies have also linked stress with shorter telomeres, a chromosome component that’s been associated with cellular ageing and risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK