Why optimizers live longer than the rest of us

Do you tend to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty?

By Fuschia Sirois

A number of studies have shown that optimizers enjoy higher levels of well-being, better sleep, lower stress, and even better cardiovascular health and immune function. And now, a study links being an optimizer to a longer life.

Researchers tracked the life span of some 160,000 women ages 50 to 79 for 26 years. At the beginning of the study, the women completed a self-report measure of optimism. Women with the highest scores on the measure were categorized as optimists. Those with the lowest scores were considered pessimists.

Then, in 2019, the researchers followed up with the participants who were still living. They also looked at the life span of participants who had died. What they found was that those who had the highest levels of optimization were more likely to live longer. More important, the optimizers were also more likely than those who were pessimists to live into their nineties. Researchers refer to this as “exceptional longevity,” considering the average life span for women in developed countries is about 83 years.

What makes these findings especially impressive is that the results remained even after accounting for other factors known to predict a long life — including education level and economic status, ethnicity, and whether a person suffering from depression or other chronic health conditions.

But given that the study looked only at women, it’s uncertain whether the same would be true for men. But another study looking at both men and women also found that people with the highest levels of optimization enjoyed a life span that was between 11 and 15 percent longer than those who were the least optimistic.

A healthy lifestyle may increase life expectancy, research suggests.

Research from several studies has found that optimization is linked to eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, and being less likely to smoke cigarettes. These healthy behaviors are well known to improve heart health and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, which is a leading cause of death globally. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is also important for reducing the risk of other potentially deadly diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.

Another possible reason could be the way optimizers manage stress. When faced with a stressful situation, optimizers tend to deal with it head-on. They use adaptive coping strategies that help them resolve the source of the stress, or view the situation in a less stressful way. For example, optimizers will problem-solve and plan ways to deal with the stressor, call on others for support or try to find a “silver lining” in the stressful situation.

(Courtesy: The Washington Post)

Image courtesy of (Image Courtesy: Deirdre)

Share this post