Seeing the glass half full


There is a glass with water half of its capacity. How would you perceive it; a glass half empty or half full? Yes, this is the typical question someone would ask to check whether you are pessimistic or optimistic but, did you ever know that your life expectancy can be predicted based on your response to it!

Do optimists live longer?

The simple answer to this question would be a yes. In fact, a plethora of studies and researches have evidenced and elucidated that those who tend to view the world in a positive light are more likely have a healthier life, lesser cardio vascular diseases and better psychological equilibrium than those who are more prone to see the negative aspect of things. Now one of the most recent studies has demonstrated that the optimists are capable of living more years than the pessimists as well.

According to The Conversation, in conducting this study, researchers have tracked the lifespan of nearly 160 000 women aged from 50 to 79 for a period of 26 years. At the onset of the study, the women have completed a self-assessed measure of optimism. Those who had the highest scores on the measure were categorised as optimists while those with the lowest scores were considered to be pessimists.

Then, in 2019, the researchers followed up with the participants who were still living. They also have looked at the lifespan of participants who had died. What they have found is that those who had the highest levels of optimism were more likely to live longer. More importantly, the optimists were also more likely than those who were pessimists to live into their nineties. Researchers refer to this as ‘exceptional longevity’, considering the average lifespan for women is about 83 years in developed countries. The significance is that the researchers have accounted it for other factors such as ethnicity, economy, and educational level and so on, and still the optimism factor has been dominant.

Another research that has been conducted by taking both men and women have also indicated that people with the highest levels of optimism enjoyed a lifespan that was between 11 per cent and 15 per cent longer than those who were the least optimistic.

How come?

Of course, the very first question the researchers also got has been ‘how come?’ Thus, they have started digging into the research outcomes to decipher an answer for that. At the first glance, research has depicted that optimism is linked to consuming a healthy diet, engaging in more physical activity, and being less likely to consume tobacco. Indeed, these healthy behaviours are known to ameliorate heart health and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, which is a leading cause of death globally. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is similarly effective for reducing the risk of other potentially deadly diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. So, its logic exemplifies the reason for optimists to live longer years. Nevertheless, later the scientists have realised that this healthy life style is accountable for only 24 per cent of the longevity.

The other aspect to be held accountable in this regard, according to the scientists, is Psychology. They believe that the optimists acquire an effective mechanism of coping with stress and emotional management. It is, as many tend to think, just ignoring the problems and enjoying a fool’s happiness, but it is about how the optimists tend to see the possible, positive potentialities in future. In other terms, they are capable of seeing the silver lining of each dark cloud that they encounter in life. Ergo, the optimists, most of the time, profit a stress-free life and a calm mindset which prevents the risk of getting depressed or such other psychological disorder. Hence, they do not experience the bio-chemical reactions related to stress and depression which in fact have a toll on longevity.

You too can be optimistic

Optimism is typically viewed by researchers as a relatively stable personality trait that is determined by both genetic and early childhood influences such as having a secure and warm relationship with your parents or caregivers.  But the scientists also mention that only 25 per cent of this trait is genetic. Let’s allocate another 25 per cent for childhood influence. You, still have a 50 per cent chance of becoming an optimist even though you are more to see the pessimistic side of things yet. So, never be discouraged and start your journey towards optimism and enjoy a longer life!

By Induwara Athapattu