A new study indicates that positive thinking can increase our chances of living past the age of 85 by 50% or more. Researchers from Boston University’s School of Medicine, the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, and Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health published the study at the end of August 2019, based on data collected from nearly 70,000 women for a period of 10 years and 1,500 men over a period of 30 years.
The researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11% to 15% longer life span, and had 50% to 70% greater odds of reaching 85 years of age, compared with the least optimistic groups. All of the results took into account other factors including educational attainment, chronic diseases, depression, and health behaviour (such as exercise, diet, alcohol use). The link between optimism and longevity is highly relevant to public health – optimism, after all, is something that can be instilled using simple techniques and therapies.
Lead researcher Dr Lewina Lee said: “This study suggests that optimism has the potential to extend the human life span. Evidence from other studies suggests that more optimistic people tend to have goals and the confidence to reach them, are more effective in problem-solving, and they may be better at regulating their emotions during stressful situations.” The exciting possibility raised by the findings, she added, is that we may be able to “promote healthy and resilient ageing by cultivating psycho-social assets such as optimism” in people
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