In a new study, researchers found optimism could boost our chances of living 85 years or more by over 50%.
The research was conducted by a team from Boston University.
Although research has identified many risk factors that increase the likelihood of diseases and premature death, much less is known about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy aging.
In the new study, the researchers used survey data collected from 69,744 women and 1,429 men.
Both groups completed survey questions to assess their level of optimism, as well as their overall health and habits, such as diet, smoking, and alcohol use.
The team followed the women for 10 years and the men for 30 years.
They found that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer and to achieve “exceptional longevity”—that is, living to age 85 or older.
Optimism refers to a general expectation that good things will happen, or believing that the future will be favorable because we can control important outcomes.
When the team compared individuals based on their initial levels of optimism, they found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11% to 15% longer life span, and had 50% to 70% greater odds of reaching 85 years of age compared to the least optimistic groups.
The findings suggest that optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human life span.
Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies.
But it’s still unclear how exactly optimism helps people attain a longer life. The team says more optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behavior as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively.
More optimistic people tend to have healthier habits, such as being more likely to engage in more exercise and less likely to smoke, which could extend life span.
One author of the study is Lewina Lee, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University.
The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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