Study: Being An Optimist May Help You Live Longer

"Choose to be optimistic. It feels better," the Dalai Lama has said. And it turns out, having a glass half full outlook may help you live longer, too. New research from Harvard finds that higher levels of optimism are associated with longer lifespan and living beyond age 90 in women.

The study of nearly 160-thousand women between the ages of 50 and 79 followed them for up to 26 years and finds the optimism-longevity link holds true across racial and ethnic groups. The results show:

  • The 25% of women in the study who were the most optimistic were likely to have a 5.4% longer lifespan and a 10% higher chance of living past age 90 than the 25% who were the least optimistic.
  • Lifestyle factors, including regular exercise, healthy eating, body mass index, smoking and alcohol consumption, accounted for less than a quarter of the association between longevity and optimism.
  • These findings back up a previous Harvard study that found optimism was linked to a longer lifespan and “exceptional longevity,” which is defined as living past 85 years of age. That study looked at mostly white populations, so this time, researchers included participants from a range of racial and ethnic groups.

“We tend to focus on the negative risk factors that affect our health,” said lead study author Hayami Koga. “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.”

Source: Harvard School of Public Health

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