The authors of this study have found that positive people were more likely to live to the age of 85 or more. The study followed-up male and female cohorts, women from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Ageing Study (NAS), with follow-up of 10 y (2004 to 2014) and 30 y (1986 to 2016), respectively. Optimism was assessed using the Life Orientation Test–Revised in NHS and the Revised Optimism–Pessimism Scale from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 in NAS.
Exceptional longevity was defined as survival to age 85 or older. adjusting for demographics and health conditions, women in the highest versus lowest optimism quartile had 14.9% (95% confidence interval, 11.9 to 18.0) longer life span. Findings were similar in men. Participants with highest versus lowest optimism levels had 1.5 (women) and 1.7 (men) greater odds of surviving to age 85; these relationships were maintained after adjusting for health behaviours. Given work indicating optimism is modifiable, these findings suggest optimism may provide a valuable target to test for strategies to promote longevity.
Optimism is a psychological attribute characterised as the general expectation that good things will happen, or the belief that the future will be favourable because one can control important outcomes. Previous studies have reported that more optimistic individuals are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases and die prematurely. The results further suggest that optimism is specifically related to 11 to 15% longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity,” that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond.
In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact.
The theory is that optimists may find it easier to control emotions and so be protected from the effects of stress and researchers said 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 understood about what the researchers call “positive psycho-social factors” that could enable healthy ageing.
A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.
Prof Lewina O. Lee says “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 said.
“Healthier behaviours and lower levels of depression only partially explained our findings.
“Initial evidence from other studies suggests that more optimistic people tend to have goals and the confidence to reach them, are more effective in problem-solving, and they may be better at regulating their emotions during stressful situations,” she added.
Prof Bruce Hood is chair of developmental psychology in society at the University of Bristol, and runs a course called “the science of happiness”.
A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.
He said the study supported existing evidence of the benefits of positive thinking. He added: “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, a chromosome component that’s been associated with cellular ageing and risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”
So, what can we do with this information? Many experts such as Prof Bruce Hood studying happiness suggest we have rather more choice than many of us realise and although there is no guarantee what have we got to lose – probably nothing but the gain may be a longer happier life!
A positive attitude is a choice, like walking to the other side of a street to avoid trouble or making a 180-degree turn when you feel you’re heading in the wrong direction.
What really makes us happy?
How can we improve our relationships? What helps us cope well with adversity? How does physical activity affect our mood? What makes life meaningful? The book explores these and many other questions, all based on the latest research about what really works.
What’s inside the book:
- Why each key matters – the science behind it
- Reflections – To help you think about each key in your own life
- Actions you can take – lots of evidence-based ideas to try
Making the transition from TOIL to TOYL isn’t always without difficult, however probably easier if we could do as Mark Twain opined!
Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.
When it comes to work and the transition from TOIL to TOYL I have written quite a bit on this and how preparation is key. Take a look – there is a great deal of information out there and most of the essentials are NOT financial!
The secret of long life is double careers. One to about age sixty, then another for the next thirty years.
Q1. Are you happy and if not what could make you happier?
Q2. Do you actually want to live longer?
Q3. What are you going to do about it?