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 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 mainly common sense, and must be the very devil to quantify. However, it poses the problem “how can one be optimistic when you see your ordered world so casually disordered by people so dissatisfied with the world that they can condemn the world to potential chaos”. I refer in particular to the climate change deniers, who might live a year or two longer owing to their optimism, but are condemning millions to chaos and early death with their stubborn denial. These people are not admirable.
As for world politics….well….. Last night we watched a movie on the rise of Hitler, a reminder of how human beings never seem to learn. They say they want “strong men” who “get things done”. But seldom are these paragons able or prepared to think things through before lurching in and causing chaos. I am thinking of Brexit, of course. The politicians involved in it had multiple years to identify the difficulties, but were too lazy and effete to do the work. So we, the people, suffer. Hard to be optimistic. But then Epicurus knew this and warned against involvement in politics.