Good news for longer life – optimism may be the secret 

It’s good news for living longer as well as being happy – start to think positively.

A new study finds that higher levels of optimism were associated with longer lifespan and living beyond age 90 in women across racial and ethnic groups.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study enrolled women between ages 50 and 79 and gathered data and survey responses on them for up to 26 years. 

The 25% most optimistic participants were likely to live up to 5.4% longer and were 10% more likely to live beyond 90 than the least optimistic quarter participants.

Picture via Pexels.com

These findings stayed the same after accounting for demographics, chronic conditions and depression. 

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Lead author Hayami Koga, a PhD student studying population health sciences, said: 

“Lifestyle factors, such as regular exercise and healthy eating, accounted for less than a quarter of the optimism-lifespan association, indicating that other factors may be at play,

“We tend to focus on the negative risk factors that affect our health.

“It is also important to think about the positive resources such as optimism that may be beneficial to our health, especially if we see that these benefits are seen across racial and ethnic groups.”

Previous research has found similar results. 

A 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences based on data from 69,744 women and 1,429 men found that being in the group with the most positive outlook was related to an 11 to 15% longer life span versus the least optimistic group. 

The findings suggest optimism may be an important strategy to promote healthy aging, the authors wrote.

The women, who had been followed since 1976, completed an optimism assessment in 2004. 

The questionnaire asked how strongly they agreed with statements like, “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best” or “I’m 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 optimism levels were associated with living longer and higher odds of reaching age 85.

Scientists don’t fully understand the pathways from optimism to health and longevity, but there are some theories, author of the 2019 study Lewina Lee, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, told TODAY at the time.

The study has been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. (pictures via Pexels.com)

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