Mental Health

Unlock A Longer Life By Being Optimistic

What if someone told you that the key to living longer is simply just being positive? While it might be hard to believe, that’s precisely what a Harvard study has revealed. Optimism is the way to living longer, and here’s why.

By Aditi
25 Jun 2022

Scientists everywhere try to hack how to live longer, from researching cell regeneration to even lifestyle factors. But what if all it took was a better outlook on life?


A recent study conducted by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health has revealed that higher levels of optimism were linked to a longer lifespan in women. The study included women across racial and ethnic groups to make it more inclusive and determined that women can live beyond 90 years when shown to have higher levels of optimism.


Humans tend to be optimists for life, as shown by a 2020 study by Michigan State University, but how can you maintain an optimistic outlook during challenging times? What does optimism really mean? Let’s find out:


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What Does The Study Say?

The Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health study recorded responses from over 159,000 participants aged 50-79. The study took place over a span of 26 years, showing a record of regularity and measuring optimism levels over their lifetimes. The 25 per cent that were most optimistic were more likely to have a 5.4 per cent longer lifespan and a 10 per cent higher probability that they would live beyond 90 years.


The researchers found no correlation between optimism levels and race and ethnicity. They also found that lifestyle factors, like exercising regularly and eating healthy accounted for less than a quarter of optimism-lifespan relation. The Michigan State University study, on the other hand, found that optimism increases throughout young adulthood, steadily plateauing afterward and begins to decline in older age.


The study also found that there is a ‘’massive stretch of life during which you keep consistently looking forward to things and the future’’. It partially has to do with finding success both in work and personal life, and also because people feel more in control of their lives at this point. Regardless of life’s circumstances, the study found that from when a person is 15 to when they’re almost 70, they become increasingly optimistic.


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What Does It Mean to Be Optimistic?

So now that you know that being optimistic can make you live longer, it’s actually time to decode what optimism is. Many scientists and psychologists believe that optimism is a necessary survival skill that individuals need to have to live longer. According to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, optimism can motivate us to take better care of ourselves.


Optimistic individuals tend to have goals and the confidence to achieve their lifelong goals, and it can ultimately help them foster healthy habits. Optimists feel good about tackling any challenge that will ultimately make them better and are more likely to achieve that.


According to psychologists, optimism is the belief that the outcome of various events and experiences will generally be positive. There is also another belief that optimism can be seen in the way that people explain the causes of events. Optimists are more likely to see negative events or setbacks as temporary learning lessons rather than extreme negative life-changing events. They are more likely to see the possibility of change and betterment than those who are not as optimistic.


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Benefits of Being Optimistic

While you might believe that being optimistic is just looking at things more positively, that’s not necessarily all there is to it. People who tend to be more optimistic can manage pain better and have an improved immune system, according to a 2019 paper published in the National Library of Medicine (US). Not only that, they are known to be more resilient, especially in the face of adversity.


Optimists are also shown to be less susceptible to depression and anxiety and can generally bounce back from adversities no matter what. However, how does one go about being optimistic?


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Maintaining An Optimistic Outlook

A 2011 study published in the National Library of Medicine (USA) reports that around 25 per cent of our optimism is due to genetics. However, you can also gradually change your mindset to be more optimistic by introducing simple changes. The study showed that people who imagined being their ‘best self’ experienced higher levels of optimism.

If manifestation and visualisation aren’t what you are adept at doing, you can choose to spend time with more optimistic people. It will gradually encourage you to change your mindset too.


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Dealing with Life’s Challenges, Positively

When you’re looking to ensure that you live a long and healthy life, there’s nothing like a boost of optimism to fuel your longevity even further. While it can be challenging trying to maintain a happy and positive outlook all the time, with practice and mindfulness, you should notice it increasing in no time.






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