New Study Finds Being Optimistic Could Lead to a Longer Life

Your attitude has a bigger impact on your lifespan than you might think.

We often talk about the power of positive thinking—and according to new scientific research, positivity may be even more powerful than you think. The new study, published in the journal PNAS, found that more optimistic people live much—and we mean much—longer.

The researchers at Boston University School of Medicine analyzed the overall physical and emotional health and lifestyle habits of 69,744 women for 10 years and 1,429 men for 30 years. They found that, accounting for all other factors, the most optimistic people had an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan on average than their more pessimistic counterparts. What's more, the optimistic subjects had a 50 to 70 percent greater chance of reaching the age of 85.

We all knew that a healthy diet and a regular exercise regime are keys to a long life. But an increasing amount of research shows that healthy aging isn't just about what you do, it's also about how you feel. Previous studies on the oldest living people in the world identified four personality traits that they all seemed to have in common: strong family bonds, stubbornness, a strong worth ethic, and, yep, a positive attitude.

And a 2012 study also found a link between optimism and living longer, though further research is needed to determine why that's the case. Some researchers speculate that it may be that a positive attitude helps people make other healthy choices that affect longevity, such as not smoking and abstaining from alcohol.

"More optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behavior as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively," senior study author Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, co-director of the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a press release.

Whatever the reason, if you want to live to be 100, it's worth looking on the bright side—there's scientific proof! And for practical advice on how to do so, check out I Took Yale's Happiness Course and Here's Everything I Learned.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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