Anti-Ageing Attitude: Does Pessimism Make You Live Longer?
Have you ever noticed that the phrase “grumpy old man” is more common than “cheery old man”? According to German researchers, there may be a reason; pessimism is a powerful anti-ageing attitude to have. A new study has found that if you are pessimistic and fear for the future, you are more likely to live longer.
Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany discovered that older people with low expectations for a satisfying future have generally better wellness and have longer life spans than those who are a little more optimistic. Many health and wellbeing experts believe that unrealistic optimism about the future can sometimes help people feel better when they are facing inevitable negative outcomes, such as terminal disease. According to lead researcher Frieder R. Lang, the findings, which are published online in the journal Psychology and Ageing by the American Psychological Association, don’t necessarily contradict these theories.
However, Lang did argue that the findings of the study indicate that if you worry about the future, you may be spurred on to take more active steps to adopt a healthier lifestyle. He said, ‘Our findings revealed that being overly optimistic in predicting a better future was associated with a greater risk of disability and death within the following decade. Pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions.’
Annual surveys of about 40,000 German adults, between the ages of 18 and 96, were gathered from 1993 to 2003 for the national German Socio-Economic Panel. Participants were asked to rate how satisfied they were with their lives and how satisfied they expected to be in five years. For their study, Lang and his colleagues examined information from this pool of data, and divided it up according to age groups: 18 to 39 years old, 40 to 64 years old, and 65 years old and above.
The results showed that those who predicted a brighter future were more likely to report disabilities and face an increased risk of death, with a 9.5% and 10% increase respectively. The researchers found that young people were the most optimistic, and middle-aged adults were the most realistic about their future happiness, but became more pessimistic over time. Lang noted, ‘Unexpectedly, we also found that stable and good health and income were associated with expecting a greater decline compared with those in poor health or with low incomes. These findings shed new light on how our perspectives can either help or hinder us in taking actions that can help improve our chances of a long healthy life.’
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