BOSTON – New research suggests that optimism can lead to longevity. Extensive research has shown that people who “always look for the good in life” turn 90 years old.
This phenomenon has been used in racial and ethnic groups, proving that happiness benefits both the body and the mind. Khayami Koga, PhD candidate at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, believes that being positive is just as good as exercise for you.
“While optimism itself may be influenced by social structural factors such as race and ethnicity, our research suggests that the benefits of optimism may lie in different groups,” Koga said in a university release.
“Much of the previous work has focused on deficits or risk factors that increase the risk of disease and premature death. Our findings highlight the importance of focusing on positive psychological factors such as optimism, as there are new ways to promote longevity and healthy aging in different groups.
Being positive means living 5 percent longer
The study looked at 159,255 women under the age of 26 in the United States. Researchers assessed their level of optimism using a questionnaire called the Life Orientation Test, one of the most common measures of optimism in practice.
The team also took into account other factors such as education, marital status, income and chronic conditions. Optimists in the top 25 percent lived an average of 5.4 percent longer than their peers in the bottom quarter.
“High optimism is associated with longevity and the likelihood of achieving longevity in general and racial and ethnic groups in particular. The contribution of lifestyles to these associations was simple, ”the study authors wrote Journal of the American Geriatric Society.
“Optimism promotes health and longevity in different racial and ethnic groups. Future research should investigate these associations in smaller populations.
Growing evidence suggests that positive psychological factors are associated with a lower risk of disease and death. In particular, optimism – the generalized expectation of positive outcomes in the future – shows a consistent link between improved health outcomes, especially longevity.
Sunburn is often found in genes. However, experiments show that writing exercises and cognitive behavioral strategies can also inspire optimism.
“This work, along with the results that link optimism to a range of outcomes, including physical health, may be a new goal for optimistic health interventions,” Koga said, according to SWNS.
Optimists try harder to live a healthier life
Previous research has also suggested that optimistic people use more proactive methods to improve their health. They also engage in healthy behaviors such as increasing physical activity, eating healthily, and smoking.
“This evidence suggests that such behavior may mediate the relationship between optimism and longevity,” said the SWNS researcher.
New discoveries return to previous work. A study of mostly white American women found that being optimistic increased life expectancy by 15 percent, and especially the chances of achieving longevity by 50 percent.
“It should be noted that exercise is widely recognized as an important health factor, and studies have shown that regular exercise can increase life expectancy by 0.4 to 4.2 years in regulating risk factors,” Koga said in a statement. “Thus, our results are comparable to the effect of optimism on exercise.”
The authors of the study add that psychological stress and suffering can cause many physiological changes that have a negative impact on health. These include activation of the immune and autonomic nervous systems, changes in brain chemicals, blood clotting, and oxidative stress.
“Positive psychological factors can buffer psychological stress as well as physiological reactions,” Koga told SWNS. “In addition, optimists gain more social support, use problem-solving and planning strategies to reduce health risks, and better regulate emotions and behavior.”
“We focus on the negative risk factors that affect our health,” concludes Koga. “It’s also important to think about positive resources, such as optimism, that can be beneficial to our health, especially if we see that these benefits are seen in racial and ethnic groups.”
South West News Service writer Mark Wagorn contributed to this report.