Research confirms you can think your way to 85

A few years ago, Boston University conducted a ground-breaking study on the impact optimism can have on mental health and longevity.

Based on decades of research, the study indicates optimism could boost your chances of living 85 years or longer by more than 50 percent.

Researchers from Boston University’s School of Medicine, the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, and Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health teamed up to conduct the study.

They surveyed 69,744 women and 1,429 men by asking questions to assess their level of optimism and overall health. Women were followed for 10 years while men were tracked for 30 years.

Researchers discovered people who generally expect good things to happen to them, or feel in control of ensuring favorable outcomes, can experience exceptional longevity.

The most optimistic men and women achieved an 11% to 15% longer lifespan, which improved their odds of reaching their 85th birthday by 50 to 70 percent.

“This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human life span,” said Lewina Lee, an assistant professor of psychiatry and a clinical research psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston. “Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies.”

I suspect some of those techniques include avoiding the news and social media, reading uplifting books, spending time with other optimists, having a purpose for your life, and being engaged in lifelong learning.

Although researchers aren’t exactly sure how optimism contributes to a longer lifespan, they did offer some theories. First, optimistic people tend to have healthier habits when it comes to diet, exercise and avoiding smoking. Second, optimists can often control their emotions and behavior to bounce back more quickly from difficulties or setbacks.

People can read the actual study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The original story can be found at The Brink, a publication produced by Boston University.