Optimism may add a few extra years to one’s life

A woman smiles as she walks through a neighborhood

Having an optimistic outlook may add extra years to one’s life, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  
After analyzing up to 26 years of data shared by thousands of postmenopausal women, researchers found that women who were more optimistic lived about four years longer than those who scored lower on optimism assessments. The median lifespan for U.S. women during the 2018 review was 81. However, more than half of women in this study, part of the Women’s Health Initiative, lived to at least 90.  
After adjusting for multiple variables, such as medical history, education, and income, researchers found links between optimism and longevity were still strong. They also found a heart-healthy lifestyle, such as exercising and avoiding tobacco, explained about a quarter of the optimism-longevity benefits. Others could be due to multiple variables. For example, optimism could overlap with women having social support, influence how the brain perceives and adapts to stress, and support health planning and promotion. The authors note future studies could examine these connections and factors unaccounted for in their research, such as genetic or environmental influences. They also shared ways studies could examine links between optimism and healthy aging in diverse populations.  

The research was supported by NHLBI and the National Institute on Aging.