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Is Pessimism the Key to a Longer Life?

The saying “if you never expect anything you’ll never be disappointed” has been a statement to live by for many, while others thrive on the idea that “positive thoughts create positive results.” Well, guess what folks, it just may be a “glass half empty” kind of world after all! A study done by the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that low expectations and a gloomier outlook on the future may be the key to a longer, healthier life. Older participants ages 65-96, who thought life would get worse with age had much better health outcomes and lived longer than those who anticipated better days ahead. Who would have thought, right?

This study revealed that those who were overly optimistic in predicting a better future were associated with a greater risk of disability and death within the following decade. On the other hand, pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions. Optimists often look at life through rose colored glasses and ignore the truth about health risks associated with aging. Pessimists have a more realistic view of the threats ahead and tend to be more proactive about taking care of themselves. For instance, seniors who anticipate that their health will decline may get more medical exams, exercise more, lose weight, avoid smoking and plan a better diet in order to ward off disease. The elders who have that “don’t worry, be happy” mentality may not consider it necessary to take steps to protect themselves.

There are benefits to being an optimist, so don’t get down in the dumps about life just yet. The Mayo Clinic states that positive thinking can boost health because it reduces stress. Tension and constant worry can really take a toll on the immune system by reducing its ability to fight disease. There are different types of optimism however; people who are happy all the time and take pride in the beauty of everyday life will absolutely enjoy life more, as long as they aren’t “unrealistically” optimistic. The type of people who bury their head in the sand and refuse to face facts may be the issue, not those who correctly anticipate things going well.

There are many studies out there that completely contradict the theory that pessimistic thoughts are the key to a longer life, but if you think about it, taking more precautions and thinking realistically does make sense when thinking long term! No one wants to be the pessimist who has to hear “cheer up” all the time, so wear a smile and enjoy life, just be aware of your health and what’s to come.


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