Print Edition - 2017-03-09  |  Health and Living

Can optimism make you live longer?

  • Health dilemma by dr luisa dillner

Mar 9, 2017-

OOptimism brings its own rewards and is linked to a host of health benefits. A recent paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology of more than 70,000 women found that optimists were less likely than pessimists to die from cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung conditions or infections during the eight-year study period. The women were aged between 58 and 83, and the researchers took into account other factors such as economic status, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. Levels were measured by asking the women how optimistic they felt on a scale of zero to 24. Optimism is considered a personality trait—a belief that life is likely to turn out well as opposed to badly and optimists will expect good outcomes even when life is tough. This study joins a host of others including a meta analysis of more than 80 studies that associate optimism with better health. A study from the University of Illinois of more than 5,100 people found that those who were most optimistic were twice as likely to have a good “cardiovascular score” based on criteria such as cholesterol and glucose levels, physical activity, blood pressure and weight.

The research finds that optimists lead healthier lives because they believe it will benefit them. It is hypothesised (without much evidence) that optimists feel less negativity and so produce fewer bursts of stress-related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that could increase blood pressure. But while a physiological pathway for the benefits of optimism may be hard to find, learning it is easier. Tips include keeping a diary of things for which you feel grateful and persisting at solving problems instead of feeling it’s all too difficult. 

Published: 09-03-2017 09:22

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