Scientists at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health believe they have proof the answer is yes—at least in the case of more than 70,000 women involved in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study.
Using data from the study, researchers discovered that having a positive outlook on life is not just good for mental health; women who are more optimistic actually tend to live longer than their less optimistic counterparts. “Our new findings suggest that we should make efforts to boost optimism, which has been shown to be associated with healthier behaviors and healthier ways of coping with life challenges,” said Eric Kim, one of the lead authors of the study.
Specifically, a sunnier attitude was associated with a reduced risk of death from major causes such as heart disease (38% lower), stroke (39% lower), respiratory disease (38% lower), infection (52% lower) and cancer (16% lower). The good news? Optimism can be a learned behavior, says co-author Kaitlin Hagan.
“Previous studies have shown that optimism can be altered with relatively uncomplicated and low-cost interventions—even something as simple as having people write down and think about the best possible outcomes for various areas of their lives, such as careers or friendships,” said Hagan in a recent news release. “Encouraging use of these interventions could be an innovative way to enhance health in the future.”