It turns out a positive attitude really can go a long way. A new study advises that optimism appears to be related to longevity. Or, rather, people who tend to be more optimistic seem to have greater odds of achieving something called “exceptional longevity”; which equates to living to the age of 85 (or beyond).
The study examined and compared data taken from nearly 70,000 women (in the Nurse’s Health Study) and approximately 1,500 men (in the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study). In the first cohort, the data tracking began in 1976 and concluded in 2004 with an optimism assessment. The men were followed starting in 1961 and concluded with a similar optimism assessment in 1986. These assessments were, essentially, questionnaires that attempted to determine “positivity” through evaluative statements like “I usually expect the best outcome, even in uncertain times,” or “I am always optimistic about the future.”
Each of these two main groups were divided into subgroups based solely on their optimism levels (low, medium, and high) while also observing their mortality statistics. Sure enough, the highest levels of optimism appeared to have direct association with longevity.
And, more importantly, it appears this link is consistent regardless of other health factors including sex/gender, physical activity, diet, BMI, emotional stasis, and smoking and alcohol use.
According to Boston University School of Medicine assistant professor of psychiatry Lewina Lee, the team was actually pretty surprised to see how such consistency. However, she also commented “We know that optimism is about 25 percent heritable, which means that there is room to modify [it].”
Looking specifically at the numbers, the groups with the most positive outlook appeared to have an 11-15 percent longer life span, when compared against the group with the lowest positive outlook. The researchers say these findings suggest that optimism could be an important strategy in regards to healthy aging. Of course, they still do not fully understand the correlation but scientists theorize that positive outlook contributes to maintaining healthier habits, including diet and exercise as well as social interaction.