Being optimistic means that you are hopeful about good things to come in the future. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the ability of many to think positively about the future, there is growing evidence that optimism may be linked to better health.
A new study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, investigated the association between optimism and health in elderly men – a matter that is poorly understood at the moment. Researchers found that older men who were more optimistic also experienced less stressful situations in their lives, over the course of the study.1
The link between optimism and stress
This study offers promising evidence that optimism may promote better health as people grow older since it can reduce stress. This is because stress is known to have negative impacts on health.1
Stress commonly leads to headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, and sleep problems.2 Also, stress that is left unchecked over time can aggravate other serious health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.2
Experts say that optimism helps to decrease the amount of stressful encounters that you may have on a regular basis, but it does not necessarily change the way you emotionally respond to a stressful situation.3 By limiting how often you feel stressed, optimism may improve physical well-being.
Other benefits of optimism
This study also found that participants who showed greater optimism reported their mood being overall more positive than negative.1 According to experts, this shows that optimism may be associated with improved emotional well-being in later stages of life.3
In a previous study conducted by the same researchers, it was determined that men and women with higher levels of optimism had greater chances of living past the age of 85.4 Interestingly, the results showed that optimism could increase lifespan by 11% to 15%.4
Psychology professor Dr. Scheier argues that people who are optimistic are also more effective at facing their problems head-on, compared to pessimists which tend to give up on their goals.5 Optimists are hopeful that any problems in life will only last for a short period of time and they try not to blame themselves entirely for these challenges.3
Overall, being optimistic has many benefits to offer, ranging from improving your outlook on life to possibly increasing your longevity.
- Optimism may promote emotional well-being by limiting how often one experiences stressful situations| EurekAlert! Published March 7, 2022. Accessed March 28, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/945280
- Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior – Mayo Clinic. Published 2021. Accessed March 28, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987
- Lee LO, Grodstein F, Trudel-Fitzgerald C, et al. Optimism, Daily Stressors, and Emotional Well-Being Over Two Decades in a Cohort of Aging Men. Journals Gerontol Ser B. 2022;2022:1-11. doi:10.1093/GERONB/GBAC025
- Lee LO, James P, Zevon ES, et al. Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019;116(37):18357-18362. doi:10.1073/pnas.1900712116
- Scheier MF, Carver CS, Bridges MW. Optimism, pessimism, and psychological well-being. Optimism pessimism Implic theory, Res Pract. Published online October 27, 2004:189-216. doi:10.1037/10385-009
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