Optimism Can Add Years to Your Life

Some more positive news for the glass-half-full crowd

Robert Roy Britt
2 min readJun 8, 2022

Photo: Pexels/Gustavo Fring

Things are looking up for optimists.

The most optimistic women live 5.4% longer than the least optimistic and have a greater chance of living into their 90s, according to a new study that adds to similar findings among women and men. The conclusion, based on 159,255 racially diverse women, appears to stick across many groups and has little to do with varying lifestyles, the scientists said.

“Although optimism itself may be patterned by social structural factors, our findings suggest that the benefits of optimism for longevity may hold across racial and ethnic groups,” said the study’s lead author, Hayami Koga, at PhD student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The results are detailed today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

A lot of factors play into whether someone is optimistic or not, from genetics to life history to current circumstances, so the new study can’t prove cause-and-effect. But much other research has yielded similar results, including this 2019 study of women and men:

Women who characterize themselves as having the highest levels of optimism live 15% longer than the least optimistic women and have a 50% greater chance of reaching age 85. The most optimistic men live 11% longer and are 70% more likely to reach 85. (The different results for men and women are not significant, the researchers say.)

Other research has found optimists sleep better and are twice as likely as pessimists to have good heart health. A study earlier this year hinted at one possible reason why optimism can be so good for us: It seems to promote emotional well-being and positively affect how we deal with stress.

Living longer is great, if you’re healthy and happy. Good news on that front, too: One secret to living longer is simply to embrace getting older rather than worrying about it, and in reality there’s not as much to fear as we might think: older people are a lot happier than folks in mid-life.

Finally, if you’re a pessimist you might consider hitching a ride with someone who embraces positive thinking. Choosing a happy, optimistic partner can be one key to a healthy romantic relationship.

Related: How Mindfulness Can Help

I’m the author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: A Guide to Greater Health, Happiness & Productivity (paperback or Kindle version). Your support makes my health writing possible. You can sign up for emails when I publish on Medium, or join Medium to directly support me and gain full access to all Medium stories. — Rob

Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB