Optimism is one of the healthiest traits to have in a partner, new research finds.
People married to an optimistic person have a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
Similarly, optimistic people themselves tend to live a longer life.
Indeed, being optimistic can increase the odds of reaching 85-years-old by up to 70 percent.
Critically, optimists believe they can control their lives and make improvements.
While optimism is partly genetic and related to upbringing and circumstances, there is evidence to show it can be cultivated.
Exercises such as visualising your ‘best possible self‘ have been shown to increase optimism.
Dr William Chopik, study co-author, said:
“We spend a lot of time with our partners.
They might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier or remind us to take our medicine.
When your partner is optimistic and healthy, it can translate to similar outcomes in your own life.
You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses.”
The conclusions come from a study of 4,457 couples who were tracked for up to eight years.
Dr Chopik explained the results:
“We found that when you look at the risk factors for what predicts things like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a lot of them are things like living a healthy lifestyle.
Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity are large predictors.
There are some physiological markers as well.
It looks like people who are married to optimists tend to score better on all of those metrics.”
Optimistic people tend to create a healthier environment at home, said Dr Chopik:
“There’s a sense where optimists lead by example, and their partners follow their lead.
While there’s some research on people being jealous of their partner’s good qualities or on having bad reactions to someone trying to control you, it is balanced with other research that shows being optimistic is associated with perceiving your relationship in a positive light.”
Dr Chopik said people can become more optimistic if they want to change:
“There are studies that show people have the power to change their personalities, as long as they engage in things that make them change.
Part of it is wanting to change.
There are also intervention programs that suggest you can build up optimism.”
Along with being optimistic, studies also show that having a highly conscientious partner leads to more stable and healthier relationships.
People who are conscientious are more careful, efficient and self-disciplined — and they aim for achievement.
Indeed, conscientious people tend to live longer themselves.
Highly conscientious people live an average of two to four years longer than their less self-disciplined peers.
They are also less likely to smoke or drink and experience lower levels of stress.
The study was published in the Journal of Personality (Oh et al., 2019).