For hundreds of years, people have sought out how to live a longer and healthier life. Over the years, research has shown us the many things that may contribute to an earlier death, such as substance use or environmental hazards. This research, though, tends to focus on the negative and what can cut our lives short rather than what helps increase our life span. Interestingly, new research does just that, and has shown that optimism is a key factor in longevity.
Optimism has previously been found to lower risks of chronic illness and premature death, but new research has found that it is highly correlated to living to age 85 or older. In a large sample, those with high optimism were 50-70% more likely to reach that age, and 11-15% were more likely to live longer overall. This was true regardless of other health factors, such as diet, exercise, health care, and substance use; and was also found for both women and men.
Researchers believe that optimism helps promote healthier habits and decrease stress and depression, which can impact one’s healthiness and self-care. Indeed, stress has been shown to have a significant impact on one’s health, particularly related to inflammation. Other new research has found a link between anger and decreased life span for men in their 80s, which was also contributed to inflammation. Overall, mental health has a strong effect on physical health!