Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Optimism and longevity

Optimists may have longer lives Reuters via Yahoo!News 12/22/06 "Researchers found that of nearly 7,000 adults followed since their college days in the 1960s, those who were optimistic in their youth had a lower risk of dying over the next 40 years than their more pessimistic peers...the most pessimistic study participants were 42 percent more likely to die of any cause than the most positive participants..."

Stat science here, with little insight into what is going on physiologically. However, the likely explanation for this is mentioned in the article - that optimist probably suffer less depression, pay more attention to exercise and diet and so on. In 1998 research at Ohio State found that optimism did not necessarily help with health on average, but negative thoughts associated with pessimism did hurt health. It might be impossible to become an optimist if you are a pessimist, but maybe all you have to do is minimize the pessimism. Other than cognitive therapy the best way to achieve that is through exercise and possibly basic forms of relaxation techniques. The last two alone might just offset health impact of pessimism even if you can't change your mindset. But of course if you are a pessimist you're probably sure nothing will help your pessimism.

I wonder what percentage of pessimists have depression or dysthymia?

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