This Summer has given me a chance to spend precious time with the people I love. And surrounding yourself with people who have a positive influence in your life may have an even bigger effect than we initially thought, with news of a recent study that has revealed optimistic people live longer than those who are not.
According to scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine in the US, people with greater optimism are more likely to live to the age of 85 or older. The women were aged between 58 and 86 when they completed an optimism assessment in 2004. Their mortality status was tracked through to 2014. The men’s age range was 41 to 90 when they completed an optimism assessment in 1986, and their mortality status was also tracked through to 2016.
When researchers compared the participants on their initial levels of optimism, they found that on average the most optimistic men and women had an 11 to 15 per cent longer lifespan. They also had a 50 to 70 per cent greater odds of reaching the age of 85, compared with the least optimistic groups.
The study suggests that being optimistic is an important psychosocial factor that promotes wellbeing and potentially slows down the process of ageing. This could be because those who are optimistic tend to have healthier eating and exercise habits, or are able to regulate their emotions and behaviour, and bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively. It could also go towards suggesting that stress has an important role in ageing.
Scientists believe that ageing is associated with damage to the ends of our chromosomes, otherwise known as telomeres, and there is mounting evidence that eggs and sperm are subjected to this process too, meaning that if optimism has been shown to help promote longer life spans, it could also possibly help to protect an earlier decline in fertility. Surely it’s worth trying to be an optimist for us all, isn’t it?!