Optimism Saves Lives (But Pessimism May Shorten Lifespan)
There’s two kinds of people: those who view the glass half full and those who see it as half empty.
Well as it turns out, if you (or people you know) tend to consider things from a half empty pessimistic viewpoint, it might be time for an attitude adjustment, especially if you want to live a long and healthy life.
Many studies show that people with a sunny outlook tend to be healthier than those who have a negative view of the world. Now, research out of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that having an optimistic outlook on life may help you live longer.
Can a Positive Attitude Extend Your Life? And Can a Negative Mindset Shorten It?
The Harvard study involved 70,000 women enrolled in the the long-running Nurses’ Health Study. Using data collected from 2004 to 2012, the team looked at the women’s levels of optimism (versus pessimism). Then, they analyzed how that optimism affected their risk of death and other factors.
The results showed that optimistic women, as opposed to the more pessimistic women, had a significantly lower risk of dying from several major causes of death over the next eight years. This included chronic health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and infection.
In particular, when compared to the least optimistic women, those who were most optimistic had nearly a 30 percent lower risk of dying than those with a more negative mindset from any of the diseases analyzed.
When this was broken down even further, the optimistic women helped reduce their risk of dying from…
- Cancer: 16 percent lower
- Heart disease: 38 percent lower
- Stroke: 39 percent lower
- Respiratory disease: 38 percent lower
- Infection: 52 percent lower
Positivity Really is Contagious (But Be Careful — Negativity Spreads Too, and It’s Toxic)
“Previous studies have shown that optimism can be altered with relatively uncomplicated and low-cost interventions — even something as simple as having people write down and think about the best possible outcomes for various areas of their lives, such as careers or friendships,” said Kaitlin Hagan, co-lead author of the study.
However, negative thoughts can severely harm your health and inflict pain onto those around you pretty quickly. So it’s important to be mindful and don’t forget to spread that positivity onto others — a new study has found that something as simple as saying “thank you” can help ward off depression.
Optimism may reduce risk of dying prematurely among women. Press Release. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dec 2016.