Do optimists live longer? This is what science says

Do you often see the glass as half full instead of half empty? Do you always look on the bright side of life? If so, you may be surprised to learn that this trend can be good for your health.

Several investigations already showed that optimists enjoy a higher level of well-being, better sleep, less stress and even better cardiovascular and immune health.

And now, a recent study indicates that being optimistic is related to a longer life.

To conduct this study, researchers examined the lives of nearly 160,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 over a 26-year period. At the beginning, the participants completed a questionnaire to measure their optimism.

Those with the highest scores were classified as optimistic and those with the lowest scores pessimistic.

Years later, in 2019, the researchers followed up on the participants who were still living, and also studied the lives of those who had died.

They found that those with higher levels of optimism were more likely to live longer.

In addition, optimists were more likely than pessimists to live until 90 years. The researchers consider this limit as “exceptional longevity”, considering that the average lifespan of women in developed countries is about 83 years.

Getty Images

What makes these findings especially impressive is that the results held true even after accounting for other factors that influence longevity, such as level of education, economic status, ethnicity, or whether a person suffers from depression or other conditions. chronic health conditions.

Since this research only looked at women, it’s not clear if its results can be applied to men.

However, another study with participants of both genders revealed that people with higher levels of optimism enjoy a longer life expectancy. between 11% and 15% higher than the less optimistic.

The fountain of youth?

So why do optimists live longer? At first glance, it seems that it may be related to your healthier lifestyleNo.

For example, several studies have linked optimism to maintaining a healthy diet, being physically active, and less likely to smoke cigarettes.

Healthy habits are known to improve heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseaseone of the main causes of death in the world.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is also important to reduce the risk of other life-threatening diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.

Running Man

Getty Images
Exercise is a more common routine among optimistic people.

But having a healthy lifestyle may be just one of several factors why optimists live longer on average.

The latter study deduces that the lifestyle alone influences 24% in the relationship between optimism and longevity. This suggests that there are a number of other factors that lengthen the lives of optimists.

Another possible reason could be the way optimists handle stress.

When faced with a stressful situation, they tend to face it head-on; they use adaptive strategies that help them resolve the source of the stress or see the situation in a less stressful way.

For example, optimists often solve problems and plan ways to deal with what stresses them out, ask others for support, or try to find a “silver edge” in such a situation.


Getty Images

All of these approaches are known to reduce feelings of stress, as well as the biological reactions that occur when we feel stressed.

These biological reactions to stress, such as increased cortisol (sometimes called the “stress hormone”), increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as impaired immune system function, can affect health over time and increase the risk of developing life-threatening diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases.

In short, the way optimists deal with stress can help protect them somewhat from its ill effects.

Lookr always The positive side

Researchers often view optimism as a relatively stable personality trait that is determined by both genetic and early childhood influences (for example, having a safe and warm relationship with parents or caregivers).

But if you’re not naturally inclined to see the glass as half full, there are a few ways you can increase your ability to be optimistic.

woman and shadow

Getty Images
Optimism is not something purely genetic, it can be worked on.

Research shows that optimism can change over time and work with simple exercises.

For example, visualizing it and then writing about your “best possible self” (a future version of yourself that has achieved its goals) is a technique that studies show can significantly increase optimism, at least temporarily.

But for best results, goals should be both positive and reasonable, not wishful thinking. Likewise, just the fact think about positive future events it can also be effective in boosting optimism.

It is also crucial to temper any expectation of success with an accurate view of what one can and cannot control.

Optimism is reinforced when we experience the positive results that we expect and can decrease when these results are not what we wanted.

Although more research is needed, it is believed that habitually imagining yourself with the best possible results and take realistic steps to achieve them it can help develop an optimistic mindset.

On the latter, many may think that it is easier said than done. If you’re not naturally optimistic, the best way to increase your chances of longevity is to live a healthy lifestyle: stay physically active, eat a healthy diet, manage stress, and get a good night’s sleep.

If you add to this developing a more optimistic mindset, you can further expand your chances of a long life.

*This article was published on The Conversation and reproduced under a Creative Commons license.Click here to read the original version (in English)

Now you can receive notifications from BBC World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.