Basically, if you are an optimist who believes your glass is half full, you will live longer than the pessimist who believes it is half empty.
The US study has found that the former are more likely to live to the age of 85 or more. The theory is that they may find it easier to control emotions and so be protected from the effects of stress. Likewise the researchers say pessimists could benefit from doing things like imagining a future where everything turns out well.
While a lot is known about the risk factors for disease and early death, far less is known about positive psychosocial factors that could enable healthy ageing.
Secret for longevity and healthy ageing
Lewina Lee, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, who worked on the study, said: “Our findings speak to the possibility that raising levels of optimism may promote longevity and healthy ageing.
“Evidence from randomised control trials suggest that interventions, such as imagining a future in which everything has turned out well, or more intensive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, can increase levels of optimism.”
However, exactly why optimistic people appear to live longer is still up for debate. She adds, “Healthier behaviours and lower levels of depression only partially explained our findings.
“Initial evidence from other studies suggests that more optimistic people, who tend to have goals and the confidence to reach them, are more effective in problem-solving. They may be better at regulating their emotions during stressful situations“.
The Science of Happiness
In Tonic’s home city, the developmental psychology in society at the University of Bristol runs a course called ‘The Science of Happiness’.
The boss Bruce Hood says the study supports existing evidence of the benefits of positive thinking. “I think that one causal mechanism could be that optimists cope better with stress, and this could be by avoiding rumination about negative life events. Stress impacts on the immune system and so there is a possibility that this means that optimists cope better with infections.
“A number of studies have also linked stress with shorter telomeres. This is a chromosome component that has been associated with cellular ageing and risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”
Sounds over complicated! Far easier just to make a phone call for some longevity therapy ….