Wellness: study finds optimism may be the secret to longevity

optimism may be the secret to longevity

A score for the power of positive thinking movement. A new study has found that optimism may be the secret to longevity.

New research has found that more optimistic people are more likely to live longer and to live past the age of 85.

According to a media release, “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.”

Past research has identified risk factors that increase the likelihood of disease and premature death, but less is known about psychosocial factors that can promote or impede healthy aging.

The study — by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health — included 71,173 subjects: 69,744 women and 1,429 men. These completed surveys to assess their  optimism levels, as well as their overall health and lifestyle habits such as diet, smoking and alcohol consumption. Men were followed for 30 years, while the women were followed for only 10 years.

The researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, an average 11 – 15 percent longer lifespan, and had 50 – 70 percent greater odds of reaching the age of 85 compared to the least optimistic groups. This held after controlling for factors like age, education, chronic disease, depression, and health behaviors, including diet and exercise.

“While research has identified many risk factors for diseases and premature death, we know relatively less about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy aging,” said corresponding author Lewina Lee, PhD, in a statement. “This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan. Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies.”

The researchers don’t know exactly how or why optimism correlates with comparative longevity.

“Other research suggests that more optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behavior as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively,” said senior author Laura Kubzansky, PhD. The researchers suggest that optimistic people may have healthier habits, such as being more likely to engage in more exercise and less likely to smoke.”

“Research on the reason why optimism matters so much remains to be done, but the link between optimism and health is becoming more evident,” said senior author Fran Grodstein, ScD. “Our study contributes to scientific knowledge on health assets that may protect against mortality risk and promote resilient aging. We hope that our findings will inspire further research on interventions to enhance positive health assets that may improve the public’s health with aging.”

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