Scientists at Boston University School of Medicine analysed data from 69,744 women over the course of 10 years and 1,429 men for three decades. They found that individuals with a higher level of optimism had 50 to 70 per cent greater odds of reaching the age of 85.
“A lot of evidence suggests that exceptional longevity is usually accompanied by a longer span of good health and living without disability, so our findings raise an exciting possibility that we may be able to promote healthy and resilient ageing by cultivating psychosocial assets such as optimism,” the study’s lead author Lewina Lee explained.
While it isn’t clear how exactly optimism impacts our lifespan, the researchers put it down to positive people being more balanced with their emotions and resilient to stress.
“In our study, healthier behaviours, fewer depressive symptoms, and more social ties only partially accounted for the association from optimism to exceptional longevity,” Lee added.
Experts say the findings could influence how we treat the ageing process –rather than focusing on all the things we shouldn’t do (e.g. drink and smoke) it may be more beneficial to focus on constructive steps we can take.
“The results suggest that as well as educating and encouraging people to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to maximise longevity we should also be promoting psychological wellbeing and the importance of optimism,” the University of London’s Dr Catherine Hurt weighed in. “An optimistic outlook appears to be a key part of a healthy lifestyle.”