Is There a Link Between Optimism and Longevity?

Being optimistic or pessimistic is not just a psychological trait or interesting topic of conversation; it’s biologically relevant. Indeed, there is mounting evidence that optimism may serve as a powerful tool for preventing disease and promoting healthy aging.

People with an optimistic mindset are associated with various positive health indicators, particularly cardiovascular, but also pulmonarymetabolic, and immunologic. They have a lower incidence of age-related illnesses and reduced mortality levels. Optimism and pessimism are not arbitrary and elusive labels. On the contrary, they are mindsets that can be scientifically measured, placing an individual’s attitude on a spectrum ranging from optimistic to pessimistic. Framing the baseline of each subject in this way, researchers are able to verify the correlation between optimism level and relative health conditions.

In 2019, a review published in JAMA Network Open by Alan Rozanski, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Morningside hospital in New York City, compared the results of 15 different studies for a total of 229,391 participants. Rozanski’s meta-analysis showed that individuals with higher levels of optimism experience a 35 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events compared to those with lower optimism, as well as a lower mortality rate. Rozanski pointed out that the most optimistic people tend to take better care of themselves, especially by eating healthily, exercising, and not smoking. These behaviors have been found to a much lesser extent in the most pessimistic people, who tend to care less for their own well-being.

Excerpted from the MIT Press Reader

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