We’ve all been led to believe that positive and optimistic people are the ones who enjoy longer and healthier lives. They see the glass as half full, rather than half empty , they stop to smell the roses and believe the best about themselves and others. It’s not hard to believe that people who live their lives this way would be happier and healthier-after all, life does seem to be a self fulfilling prophesy.
A new study is refuting this long held and popular belief that “happy-go-lucky” people live longer and are happier. According to a surprising new study published by the American Psychological Association (APA), what we believe is actually the opposite of the truth.
Why Do Pessimists Live Longer?
“Pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions,” theorized Lang [lead author Frieder R. Lang, PhD, of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany]. The research was published online in the journal Psychology and Aging.
The researchers also point out that optimists may look at life through rose-colored glasses and ignore the truth about the health risks associated with aging, while the pessimists have a more realistic view of the threats ahead and thus may be more proactive about taking care of themselves.
For example, seniors who anticipate that their health is likely to decline may get more medical exams, exercise more, lose weight, avoid smoking, or eat a better diet to ward off disease, while those with a “don’t worry, be happy” outlook may not consider it necessary to take steps to protect themselves.
How Was the Study Conducted?
The researchers analyzed data collected between 1993 and 2003 from the German Socio-Economic Panel, an annual survey that includes about 40,000 people ages 18 to 96. Participants were divided into three age groups: 18 to 39, 40 to 64, and 65 and older. Each group was then asked to rate how satisfied they were with their lives currently and how satisfied they expected to be in five years.