People with optimistic outlooks tend to live longer than their more negative peers, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have found. The study drew on data from two long-running studies of Americans aged over 60: one of 1,500 male war veterans, and one of 70,000 female nurses.
At the start of both, the participants had completed questionnaires to gauge how optimistic they were, and had also been asked about other factors likely to influence their longevity, including diet, health and exercise. Analysis of the data, adjusted to take account of these “confounders”, revealed that most optimistic participants lived 10% to 15% longer on average than the least optimistic ones, and that they were significantly more likely to live to the age of 85.
“Healthier behaviours and lower levels of depression only partially explained our findings,” said lead researcher Dr Lewina Lee. “Initial evidence from other studies suggests that more optimistic people tend to have goals and the confidence to reach them, are more effective in problem-solving, and they may be better at regulating their emotions during stressful situations.” The exciting possibility raised by the findings, she added, is that we may be able to “promote healthy and resilient ageing by cultivating psycho-social assets such as optimism” in people. (The Week, 7 September 2019)
This is all good stuff, but I think Epicurus had a more practical idea: seek ataraxia (peace of mind). This requires you not to get wound up in the bad news and dreadful partisanship of ……well, almost anywhere in the world you live. If you cannot ignore the debilitating effect of party politics, then try to let it go over your head. I read the local paper every day but try not to allow the political bits to rouse me (not invariably successfully!). Instead, I concentrate on the good things I have in life, my marriage being the best. This isn’t quite eternal optimism , but it is thankfulness for the blessings I have.