A cheerful disposition can affect more than just your mood. Optimistic people are more committed to their goals, more successful in achieving them, more satisfied with their lives and have better mental and physical health than more pessimistic people, according to a study.
We are currently living in a very troubling time in our history. The media (news, social and print) is full of negative stories and depressing thoughts. Life is not all doom and gloom; there are always far more positives than negatives. Too often we take the positives for granted and focus on the negatives. Yet as individuals, we can all play our part in helping others feel better.
Results shown by multiple studies
Recent research also shows that a high level of optimism is associated with a longer life after age 90. The study was conducted among nearly 160,000 racially and ethnically diverse postmenopausal women and enrolled women between the ages of 50 and 79 and collected data and survey responses for up to 26 years. The 25% of most optimistic participants were 5.4% more likely to live and 10% more likely to live past 90 than the least optimistic quarter.
At the start of the study, the women completed a self-report measure of optimism. Women with the highest scores on the measure were categorized as optimists. Those with the lowest scores were considered pessimists.
Previous research has found similar results. In 2019, the researchers followed up with the still-living participants. They also looked at the life expectancy of participants who died. They found that people with the highest levels of optimism were more likely to live longer. More importantly, optimists were more likely than pessimists to live into their nineties. The researchers call this “extraordinary longevity,” given that the average life expectancy for women is about 83 years in developed countries.
The women, who had been followed since 1976, completed an assessment of optimism in 2004. The questionnaire asked how strongly they agreed with statements such as, “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best” or “I am always optimistic about my future.” ” The men, who have been followed since 1961, completed a similar type of optimism scale in 1986. For both men and women, higher levels of optimism were associated with longer lives and higher chances of reaching 85 -years old.
What makes these findings particularly impressive is that the results remained even after accounting for other factors known to predict longevity, including level of education and economic status, ethnicity, and whether a person suffers from depression or other chronic conditions health conditions.
But given that this study only looked at women, it’s not certain whether the same would hold true for men. However, another study that looked at men and women also found that those with the highest levels of optimism enjoyed a life expectancy between 11% and 15% longer than those who were the least optimistic.