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Spring 2005
THE VALUE OF OPTIMISM
By Glenn Peters, Ph.D.

A study from the Netherlands found that elderly Dutch men and women who have an optimistic attitude live longer than those with a pessimistic attitude. In 1991, 999 participants ages 65 to 85, completed a 30-item survey that measured health, self-esteem, morale, optimism and social contacts. These participants were tracked for the next 9 years to follow the number of deaths that occurred during this time period and the reasons for these deaths. Researchers found that the individuals who were rated with high levels of optimism were 55% less likely to die from all causes and had a 23% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases than the individuals rated with high levels of pessimism.

The researchers concluded that elderly people who would be expected to have relatively short life expectancies due to their ages but who also had a predisposition toward optimism tended to live longer. The researchers attributed this result to two possible causes: Optimists comply more than pessimists with medical treatment if they do fall ill, enhancing their health or recovery process. And/Or alternatively, an individual's disposition may impact on their immune or hormonal systems.

Therefore those elderly who tend to see the glass as half full rather than half empty may have a better chance of living a longer life.

To read more about this study and to see the original article, please go to the Archives of General Psychiatry at http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org, Volume 61, Number 11.


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