Want to live longer? Try to maintain an optimistic outlook towards life -- a general expectation that good things will happen. In the study, the researchers have found that women who were optimistic had a significantly reduced risk of dying from several major causes of death -- including cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and infection, compared with women who were less optimistic.
“While most medical and public health efforts today focus on reducing risk factors for diseases, evidence has been mounting that enhancing psychological resilience may also make a difference,” said Eric Kim, research student at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, US.
“Our new findings suggest that we should make efforts to boost optimism, which has been shown to be associated with healthier behaviours and healthier ways of coping with life challenges,” Kim added.
The study also found that healthy behaviours only partially explain the link between optimism and reduced mortality risk.
One other possibility is that higher optimism directly impacts our biological systems, Kim said.
For the study, the team analysed 70,000 women’s levels of optimism and other factors that might play a role in how optimism may affect mortality risk, such as race, high blood pressure, diet and physical activity.
The results showed that most optimistic women had a nearly 30 per cent lower risk of dying from any of the diseases analysed in the study compared with the least optimistic women.
Previous studies have shown that optimism can be altered with relatively uncomplicated and low-cost interventions, even something as simple as having people write down and think about the best possible outcomes for various areas of their lives, such as careers or friendships, the researchers said, adding that encouraging the use of such interventions could be an innovative way to enhance health in the future.
The study appeared online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.