Optimistic attitude increases longevity, especially among women, according to study findings. The researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health uncovered that optimistic women had a reduced risk of death from several major causes, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Those who were less optimistic had a higher mortality risk.
Co-lead author Eric Kim explained, “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. Our new findings suggest that we should make efforts to boost optimism, which has been shown to be associated with healthier behaviors and healthier ways of coping with life challenges.”
The researchers also uncovered that healthy behaviors are just one of the explanations of the association between optimistic outlook on life and a reduced risk of death. They suspect that there is actually a direct impact of optimism on the body’s biological systems, too.
The researchers reviewed data from over 70,000 women whose health was tracked via surveys every two years. The researchers looked at the participants’ levels of optimism along with other factors that could affect the impact of optimism on the risk of death, such as race, blood pressure, diet, and physical activity.
Those women with the highest levels of optimism had a 30 percent lower risk of death, compared to women who were the least optimistic.
Co-lead author Kaitlin Hagan concluded, “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. Encouraging use of these interventions could be an innovative way to enhance health in the future.”