Posted on Oct 01, 2019, 4 p.m.
According to research, those who are optimists are less likely to die prematurely and less likely to have heart problems.
An unexplained link has been found between a positive attitude and good physical health after analyzing 15 studies which examined correlations between cardiovascular disease, the overall risk of dying, and optimism.
229,391 participants between the ages of 19-93 were included in these studies that measured their levels of optimism/pessimism, and collated information on health and their cause of death when applicable.
As published in the journal JAMA Network Open those with a glass half full outlook were less likely to experience a cardiovascular event and had a lower risk of dying prematurely. The team suggests that scientists should build on the study and investigate the underlying link(s) between having a longer, healthier life and optimism.
The link could possibly be explained by past research that has linked poor heart health to negative emotions, stress, depression, anxiety, and factors such as loneliness. Evidence suggests that positivity may help to decrease the risk of chronic illness, and the trait could therefore be used as a tool for preventative medicine.
Those who are optimists have been shown to be more likely to follow a healthy lifestyle and have healthy habits, and experience direct biological benefits, while pessimism appears to promote biological damage.
Optimism has been shown to be about 25% genetic, but this trait can also be learned and improved upon as it is influenced by factors such as upbringing, life experiences, personal beliefs, and social influences.
Changing and improving our mindset also includes learning coping skills. Positive thought generation can begin by thinking about things to be grateful for, this will also boost optimism, as will cognitive behavioral therapy tools.
Another study published in the journal PNAS spanning 5 decades found that those who are optimists are more likely to reach the age of 85 and beyond; the trait was linked to living 11-15% longer on average and achieving exceptional longevity.
While the studies were important they were noted to be limited to examining predominantly white American and European participants, and the researchers encourage other scientists to conduct additional studies to determine if these findings hold up in more diverse populations.
"It would be interesting to consider the extent to which the constructs of optimism and pessimism are universal across cultures,” says Lewina Lee, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. "Our study contributes to scientific knowledge on health assets that may protect against mortality risk and promote resilient aging," Lee adds.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.