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Optimism can make you live longer- Study

Optimism can make you live longer- Study

If you want to live a long life, accent the positive and keep laughing, says researchers who have found that centenarians are often extroverts who embrace the world from an optimistic and carefree perspective.

Optimism is a trait that should become more common, judging by Winston Churchill’s famous quote that “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Optimism has been proven to improve the immune system, prevent chronic disease, and help people cope with unfortunate news.

It is a form of positive thinking that includes the belief that you are responsible for your own happiness, and that more good things than bad will continue to happen to you. Optimists believe that bad or negative events are rare occurrences and that it is not their fault when something bad happens but is due to something external.

In a research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers find an association between a positive sense of well-being and better health

The researchers used data from 70,021 women who were part of the long-running Nurses’ Health Study, looking at their level of optimism as assessed by a brief, validated questionnaire in 2004. For example, they were asked to what degree they agreed with the statement “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.” Their average age was about 70 years old. Then the researchers tracked deaths among the women from 2006 to 2012. (That two-year lag was to avoid including women who were already seriously ill.)

In the study, they discovered that after controlling factors like age, race, educational level and marital status, the women who were most optimistic were 29 percent less likely to die during the six-year study follow-up than the least optimistic. That reduced risk was seen in cancer (16 percent lower), heart disease (38 percent), stroke (39 percent), respiratory disease (37 percent) and infection (52 percent).

Optimism can lead to improved health outcomes through several mechanisms, says Eric Kim, an author of the study and research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. First, people who are more optimistic also tend to have healthier behaviours when it comes to diet, exercise and tobacco use.

It’s also possible that more optimistic people cope better, says Kim. “When they face life challenges, they create contingency plans, plan for future challenges and accept what can’t be changed,” he says.

While the study uncovered an association between optimism and lifespan, it did not prove cause and effect.

Dr. Sarah Samaan, a cardiologist at the Heart Hospital at Baylor in Plano, Texas, said healthy behaviors may help fuel optimism.

“It’s easier to feel optimistic when you feel healthy and energetic,” said Samaan, who was not involved in the research. “By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you may open yourself up to greater gratitude and create more energy for deeper relationships and professional satisfaction”

 

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