Having a cheery disposition can influence more than just your mood. Optimistic people are more committed to their goals, are more successful in achieving their goals, are more satisfied with their lives, and have better mental and physical health when compared to more pessimistic people, according to research.
We are currently living in a very worrying time in our history. The media (news, social, and printed) is full of negative stories and depressing thoughts. Life is not all doom and gloom; there are always many more positives than negatives. Very often, we take the positives for granted and focus on the negatives. Yet as individuals, we can all play our part to help others feel better.
Results as shown by multiple studies
Recent research has also shown that having a high level of optimism was associated with a longer lifespan past age 90. The research was carried out between almost 160,000 racially and ethnically diverse, postmenopausal women and enrolled women between ages 50 and 79 and gathered data and survey responses on them for up to 26 years. The 25% of most optimistic participants were likely to live up to 5.4% longer and were 10% more likely to live beyond 90 than the least optimistic quarter participants.
At the beginning of the study, the women completed a self-report measure of optimism. Women with the highest scores on the measure were categorized as optimists. Those with the lowest scores were considered pessimists.
Previous research has found similar results. In 2019, the researchers followed up with the still living participants. They also looked at the lifespan of participants who had died. They found that those with the highest levels of optimism were more likely to live longer. More importantly, the optimists were also more likely than those who were pessimists to live into their nineties. Researchers refer to this as “exceptional longevity”, considering the average lifespan for women is about 83 years in developed countries.
The women, who had been followed since 1976, completed an optimism assessment in 2004. The questionnaire asked how strongly they agreed with statements like, “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best” or “I’m always optimistic about my future.” The men, who have been followed since 1961, completed a similar type of optimism scale in 1986. For both men and women, higher optimism levels were associated with living longer and higher odds of reaching age 85.
What makes these findings especially impressive is that the results remained even after accounting for other factors known to predict a long life, including education level and economic status, ethnicity, and whether a person suffering from depression or other chronic health conditions.
But given this study only looked at women, it’s uncertain whether the same would be true for men. However, another study that looked at both men and women also found that people with the highest levels of optimism enjoyed a lifespan between 11% and 15% longer than those who were the least optimistic.