One groundbreaking study conducted by researchers from Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health found that people with a positive outlook on life have a 10% greater chance of living past 90 (Koga et al., 2022).
Not only that, but the effect scales. The more optimistic you are, the greater your longevity. The Harvard researchers found that the most optimistic individuals enjoyed a striking 5.4% longer lifespan than pessimists.
The study included a racially diverse group of 159,255 women drawn from the Women’s Health Initiative. Even after correcting for influential factors like regular exercise and balanced nutrition, optimism emerged as a key determinant of extended lifespan.
Most study participants were black or from other ethnic groups, communities that usually have poorer longevity than affluent white populations. According to researcher Hayami Koga, “The benefits of optimism may hold across diverse groups.”
The same Harvard team had previously unearthed a noteworthy connection between optimism and exceptional longevity. This phenomenon, characterized by living past 85, was measured in a predominantly white population. This latest study extends the findings to a variety of ethnic groups.
Not only can optimism extend lifespan, it can extend “health-span”—the percentage of your life for which you stay healthy—too. You don’t just want to live to a ripe old age, you want to be healthy for as much of your life as possible.
In a study of 3940 adults over the age of 50, optimism predicted better health and less chronic illness (Kim et al., 2014). Having an optimistic spouse was also influential, predicting improved physical functioning and diminished long-term illness.
In some cases, the interventions take less than 10 minutes, yet produce large improvements in mental outlook (Church et al., 2020). So to improve your mood, raise your level of optimism, and boost your happiness, start your day with meditation, and tap whenever you feel stressed later in the day.
Church, D., Stapleton, P., & Sabot, D. (2020). App-based delivery of clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques: Cross-sectional study of app user self-ratings. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 8(10), e18545.
Kim, E. S., Chopik, W. J., & Smith, J. (2014). Are people healthier if their partners are more optimistic? The dyadic effect of optimism on health among older adults. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 76(6), 447-453.
Koga, H. K., Trudel‐Fitzgerald, C., Lee, L. O., James, P., Kroenke, C., Garcia, L., … Kubzansky, L. D. (2022). Optimism, lifestyle, and longevity in a racially diverse cohort of women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 70(10), 2793-2804.