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Positive thinkers live longer because they’re better at ‘bouncing back’, new study says

Being optimistic could extend life, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Looking on the bright side could even help people achieve “exceptional longevity”, reaching 85 or older.

The research, carried out by the University of Boston School of Medicine, examined data from two previous studies, analysing 69,744 women, aged between 58 and 86 in 2004, and 1,429 men, aged 41 to 90 in a 1986 study.

A new study by researchers at the University of Boston School of Medicine found that people who had a positive approach to life were 10 to 15 per cent chance more likely to live longer than their less optimistic peers

Participants answered a range of general health questions, including on diet, exercise and alcohol consumption, but also offered insights into their attitude to life. The women’s progress was tracked to 2014 and the men’s to 2016.

Researchers found that those who said they had a positive approach to life had a 11 to 15 per cent increase in lifespan, compared to those who stated a less optimistic approach.

This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psycho-social asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan…”

Dr Lewina Lee, lead researcher

Results were consistent even after factors including chronic diseases, diet, exercise and alcohol use were considered.

The odds of getting to 85 compared to their less positive peers also rose to between 50 and 70 per cent.

The odds of reaching 85 rose dramatically in those who had reported a positive outlook in initial studies when mortality rates were tracked over a decade later

Dr Lewina Lee, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston medical school, said: “While research has identified many risk factors for diseases and premature death, we know relatively less about positive psycho-social factors that can promote healthy ageing.

“This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psycho-social asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan.

“Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies.”

The research team said it remained unclear as to how the results had been achieved but other studies had suggested that being optimistic helped people ‘bounce back’ more easily when they were hit by adversity.

“Our study contributes to scientific knowledge on health assets that may protect against mortality risk and promote resilient ageing,” Dr Lee added.

“We hope that our findings will inspire further research on interventions to enhance positive health assets that may improve the public’s health with ageing.”

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University of Boston School of Medicine