Just about everybody knows that having an optimistic outlook tends to make life more enjoyable than when one is wallowing in pessimism. You could say – generally speaking – that optimists have more fun. But there’s more to being a positive person than simply enjoying life. Now we have evidence that optimistic people actually live longer! This is according to an article that appeared on National Public Radio a few weeks ago. You can click here to read this encouraging article. It just might improve your outlook.
The NPR piece is based on an article recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, and it’s just the latest in a series of studies that have shown linkage between optimism and longevity. In this study, researchers tracked a group of more than 70,000 women whose average age was 70. These women had been surveyed back in 2004 to determine their average level of optimism, based on their degree of agreement with such statements as, “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.” With this assessment in mind, researchers then tracked the death rates of these women in the years between 2006 and 2012.
The results were convincing. “(Researchers) found that after controlling for factors including 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.” No matter which of the major causes of death was analyzed, the results were similar: the optimists had a reduced rate of death for cancer (16 percent lower), heart disease (38 percent), stroke (39 percent), respiratory disease (37 percent) and infection (52 percent). In almost every instance the correlation between a positive outlook and longer lifespan showed up in the survey results.
According to NPR, other studies have shown that optimistic people tend to have better cardiovascular health, suffering lower rates of heart disease, which is still the number one cause of death among American adults. But the study cited in the NPR article, analysts say, is significant because of its large sample size and also because researchers made the effort to control for a wide variety of factors, adding credibility to the results.
Why does this linkage exist between attitude and health? Researchers including study author Eric Kim of Harvard point out several possible connections. “First,” says NPR, “people who are more optimistic also tend to have healthier behaviors when it comes to diet, exercise and tobacco use.” But even when these variables are taken into account, optimistic people live longer. According to Kim, this may be because optimistic people have better coping skills. “When they face life challenges, they create contingency plans, plan for future challenges and accept what can’t be changed,” he says. There’s also the very real possibility of a physiological correlation in which an optimistic outlook helps the body enjoy “better immune function or lower levels of inflammation.”
But here are two big questions. First – can optimism be taught? If someone is basically pessimistic, psychologists disagree about whether that person’s outlook can be re-wired to make them habitually see the brighter side. The second question, one that doctors can’t answer, is this: will changing your outlook and becoming more optimistic make you healthier? This, says NPR, requires further study.
Here at AgingOptions, one thing we’ve seen time and time again is the positive impact a good plan can have on a person’s perception of the future. As we counsel people on the radio, in our office and in seminars, we have repeatedly observed how fear and trepidation concerning the future are replaced by confidence and eager anticipation once a solid plan begins to take shape. The unknown, especially where our retirement is concerned, can be frightening! In our experience the very best way to brighten your outlook about your retirement future is with a LifePlan – a thorough retirement strategy than will guide you into a secure and fulfilling future as you age.
No matter what you’re apprehensive about as you contemplate your future, your LifePlan will provide the answers. Your financial security will be assured. Your legal preparation will be thorough. Your medical care will be provided for. Your housing choices will be mapped out well in advance. On top of all this, your family will be completely informed of your wishes. It’s tough to be optimistic when you’re fearful – but by contrast, you’re far less likely to be afraid about the future when you have a personalized LifePlan in place.
Why not take the next step? Invest just a few hours and attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars, held in locations throughout the area. Click here for dates, locations and online registration, or contact us during the week. We’re eager to help you improve your outlook about the future with the power of LifePlanning.
(originally reported at www.npr.org)