The personality trait of optimism is linked to a very longer life, new research finds.
People who are optimistic are more likely to live an exceptionally long life.
Being optimistic — a trait that can be boosted — can increase the odds of reaching 85-years-old by up to 70 percent.
Optimistic people tend to expect positive outcomes in the future.
Critically, optimists believe they can control their lives and make improvements.
Optimists tend to lead healthier lives and are also better at regulating their emotions.
They are less likely to smoke, have better body mass indexes and are more physically active.
Dr Lewina Lee, the study’s first author, said:
“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.
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 study included 71,173 people whose optimism and overall health was tracked.
The group were tracked for up to three decades.
The results showed that the most optimistic people lived up to 15 percent longer, with a 50-70 percent higher chance of reaching 85-years-old than the least optimistic people.
One of the reasons optimists live longer could be a healthier lifestyle, along with dealing with stress more effectively, said Dr Laura Kubzansky, study co-author:
“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.”
Increase your optimism
Exercises such as visualising your ‘best possible self‘ have been shown to increase optimism.
Visualising your best possible self may sound like an exercise in fantasy but, crucially, it does have to be realistic.
Carrying out this exercise typically involves imagining your life in the future, but a future where everything that could go well, has gone well.
You have reached those realistic goals that you have set for yourself.
Then, to help cement your visualisation, you commit your best possible self to paper.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal PNAS (Lee et al., 2019).