Pessimism Helps People Live Longer, Keep Healthy

Optimists are more likely to become disabled or even die, study finds

By on February 27th, 2013 15:57 GMT

The American Psychological Association has recently gone public with the news that pessimists have higher chances of leading a long and healthy life than optimists do.

It goes without saying that these findings pretty much go against the popular belief that daydreaming about happy days ahead helps people live longer simply because they have something to look forward to.

Still, it appears that the theory that pessimism ups life expectancy only applies to older people, and not to the young and the middle-aged ones.

After looking at 10 years' worth of data collected between the years 1993-2003, the researchers found that older people, i.e. individuals over the age of 65, who displayed a rather gloomy perspective on the future were more likely to have their expectations met, and therefore not make a big fuss over how reality failed to live up to their hopes and dreams.

In others words, their pessimism was actually fairly close to realism, and this in turn translated into their paying closer attention to what was going on around them.

EurekAlert!
quotes specialist Frieder R. Lang, now working with the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, who argued as follows:

“Our findings revealed that being overly optimistic in predicting a better future was associated with a greater risk of disability and death within the following decade. Pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions.”

Following their going public with the findings, the researchers stressed the fact that pessimism must not be labeled as the proper way to look at life when reaching a slightly older age, given the fact that what works for most people may not work for certain individuals.

“We argue, though, that the outcomes of optimistic, accurate or pessimistic forecasts may depend on age and available resources. These findings shed new light on how our perspectives can either help or hinder us in taking actions that can help improve our chances of a long healthy life,” Frieder R. Lang went on to argue.

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