Want to live longer? Be an optimist suggests study
A recent study, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found people with the highest level of optimism had an average 11% – 15% longer life span than individuals who did not work to think positively. In addition, the most optimistic individuals had the greatest chance of living 85 years or longer.
This study was accurate after adjusting for other long life risk factors such as socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, smoking, social engagement, poor diet and alcohol use.
Previous research suggested that optimistic individuals tend to have a reduced risk of depression, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. Lewina Lee, who chaired the study looked at the medical records from 2 long term studies to see if optimist might be linked to exceptional longevity; one involving mostly men who were veterans and the other involving female nurses.
The study included 69,744 women and 1,429 men. Both groups completed a questionnaire to assess their level of optimism, as well as their overall health and health habits such as diet, smoking and alcohol use. Study participants were asked if they agreed with questions such as “in uncertain times I usually expect the best” or “I usually expect to succeed in things that I do.”
Health outcomes from women in the study were tracked for 10 years and men for 30 years. Researchers found the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, a 11% to 15% longer lifespan, and had far greater odds of reaching 85 years old, compared to the least optimistic group.
What is Optimism
Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring the stress in life. People who are optimistic Bare less likely to blame themselves and more likely to see the obstacles as temporary or even positive. They also believe they have control over their destiny and can create opportunities for good things in the future.
According to the center for confidence there are two main ways to define optimism. Scheier and Carver, for example, define optimism as ‘the global generalized tendency to believe that one will generally experience good versus bad outcomes in life.’ In everyday language this means ‘looking on the bright side of life.’ In such a definition, pessimism is the tendency to believe ‘if something will go wrong for me, it will’. The other main way to define optimism is to use the concept of ‘explanatory style’. This is the approach taken by Professor Martin Seligman, the leader of the Positive Psychology movement and so is the one which is most appropriate for us to outline. Scheier and Carver’s optimism questionnaire (LOT-R) is included in the tools, tips and techniques section.
The basis of optimism does not lie in positive phrases or images of victory, but in the way you think about causes.
Charles R. Davenport is a Licensed Psychologist who provides individual therapy and counseling services in Sarasota and Venice FL. If you would like to work toward having more optimism in your live call 941-321-1971 for a consultation.