Is your glass half full or half empty? Do you see a happy, upbeat mood as an optional and occasional indulgence, to be expected only when falling in love, after the birth of a child, or upon getting a big promotion? As an unabashed optimist, this author was very pleased when a study came out of the Mayo Clinic showing the power of positive thinking.
Researchers interviewed 800 Minnesota residents to assess and rate their optimism levels, then tracked them for 35 years to see how long they lived. Read the results!
Regardless of age or sex, the optimists lived longer. The pessimists died prematurely. In fact, for every 10 percent increase in the pessimism index, there were 20 percent more early deaths.
Many other studies affirm that happy people are healthier and out-survive their pessimistic or depressed counterparts – and the benefits of a good mood can obviously begin today. When the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study took a longitudinal look at 659 men in middle and older age, researchers found that optimism was associated with feelings of better health, more vitality, higher mental health ratings, and lower levels of pain. Depression had the opposite effect. Feeling good is not a luxury; itís a basic component of health. Engaging the world with an expectation of the best can give you a longer, better life.
Note: Depression Kills. A six-year study published in 2000 found that people with high depressive symptoms at the studyís start had a 24 percent higher risk of dying from all causes.
Adapted from The Longevity Quotient, by Edward L. Schneider, M.D. (Rodale Press, 2003).