Want a Long Life? Try Optimism!

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Here’s still more convincing evidence that optimism is remarkably good for your health. 

Researchers investigated “exceptional longevity” — a life span of 85 years or beyond. They discovered that optimistic people are much more likely to live into their advanced years. 

The research was based on 2 studies. The largest study included more than 69,000 women who participated in the Nurses Health Study, beginning in 1976. The women completed an optimism assessment in 2004, and then their health was tracked through 2016. 

(Note: The women’s optimism was assessed using the 'Life-Orientation Test-Revised', as discussed in earlier blogs.)

The second study included 1400 men who were followed by the US Veteran’s Affairs Aging Study. These men completed an Optimism assessment in 1986, and then their health was tracked until 2016.

To interpret the data, researchers used extensive statistical analysis. 

In particular, the health of participants with highest optimism (a ‘quartile’ group that included a quarter of the participants) was compared with the health of those in the quartile group with lowest optimism. 

They discovered that the life span of the most optimistic women was 15% longer. “Findings were similar in men. Participants with highest versus lowest optimism levels had 1.5 (women) and 1.7 (men) greater odds of surviving to age 85.” 

“These relations were independent of socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration, and health behaviours (e.g. smoking, diet, alcohol use)." In other words, the effect of optimism doesn't depend on these other health factors. Optimism is, in itself, an important factor supporting longer life. 

Researchers concluded that “optimism is an important psychosocial resource for extending life span in older adults”.

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[ See the 'abstract' summary of this scientific paper: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31451635/ ]

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