It has long been known that certain behaviors such as smoking or lack of exercise can shorten life. The psychological factors responsible for people living longer, on the other hand, have rarely been the subject of research.
Researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health wanted to know for sure and found that higher levels of optimism are associated with longer life expectancies and life expectancies beyond 90 years – regardless of their ethnic group.
benefits for all people
“Although optimism itself can be influenced by sociostructural factors such as ethnicity, our research suggests that the benefits of optimism may apply to other groups as well,” said Hayami Koga, of the Harvard Chan School and lead author of the Study.
“Much previous work has focused on deficits or risk factors that increase the risk of disease and premature death. Our results suggest that it makes sense to focus on positive psychological factors, such as optimism, to promote longevity and healthy aging in different to encourage groups.
The study was published online on June 8, 2022 at Journal of the American Geriatrics Society released.
Older than 85 years
In a previous study, the research group found that optimism is associated with longer lifespans and exceptional longevity, defined as living beyond 85 years. Because they primarily looked at white populations in that previous study, Koga and her colleagues expanded the sample in the current study to include women from all ethnic groups.
According to Koga, the inclusion of different population groups in research is important for public health because these groups have a higher mortality rate than white population groups and there is little research about them that can serve as a basis for health policy decisions.
For this study, researchers analyzed data and survey responses from 159,255 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative, which included postmenopausal women in the United States. The women were enrolled between 1993 and 1998, aged 50 to 79 years, and followed for up to 26 years.
Of the participants, the 25 percent who were the most optimistic lived 5.4 percent longer and were 10 percent more likely to live to their 90s than the 25 percent who were the least optimistic. The researchers also found no correlation between optimism and the categories of ethnicity – these trends persisted even after accounting for demographic factors, chronic illness and depression.
Koga said the study’s findings could change the way people look at decisions that affect their health.
“We tend to focus on the negative risk factors that affect our health,” Koga said. “It’s also important to think about the positive resources like optimism that can have a positive impact on our health, especially when we see that these benefits are found across all racial and ethnic groups.