Pessimists Die Two Years Earlier Than Optimists, Study Finds
If pessimists weren’t already negative enough, it turns out they don’t live as long as their optimistic counterparts.
A new study of 3,000 people found those with more of a negative outlook on life were likely to die sooner from things such as cardiovascular disease.
However, researchers from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia, found that being an optimist didn’t necessarily increase life expectancy.
Lead researcher Dr John Whitfield explained the team’s findings:
We found people who were strongly pessimistic about the future were more likely to die earlier from cardiovascular diseases and other causes of death, but not from cancer.
Optimism scores on the other hand did not show a significant relationship with death, either positive or negative.
Fewer than 9% of the study’s respondents identified as being strongly pessimistic, and there were no significant differences in optimism and pessimism between men and women.
On average, it was found that a person’s level of optimism or pessimism increased with age; maybe that explains why old people are either super happy or super grumpy.
Dr Whitfield added that ‘depression did not appear to account for the association between pessimism and mortality’.
According to the research institution’s press release, it used data collected from a broader questionnaire that looked at the health of Australians aged over 50 between 1993 and 1995. Participants were invited to agree or disagree with a number of statements including positive statements such as, ‘I’m always optimistic about my future’, or negative statements such as, ‘If something can go wrong for me, it will’.
The participants’ details were then crosschecked with the Australian National Death Index in 2017 where researchers discovered more than 1,000 had died. They also looked at the participant’s cause of death.
While the findings partially correlate with previous studies on optimism, pessimism and life expectancy, Dr Whitfield said optimism and pessimism are not direct opposites. Previous studies have put the two things on one scale, while Dr Whitfield and his team used two scales.
The key feature of our results is that we used two separate scales to measure pessimism and optimism and their association with all causes of death.
That is how we discovered that while strong pessimism was linked with earlier death, those who scored highly on the optimism scale did not have a greater than average life expectancy.
We think it’s unlikely that the disease caused the pessimism because we did not find that people who died from cancer had registered a strong pessimism score in their tests. If illness was leading to higher pessimism scores, it should have applied to cancers as well as to cardiovascular disease.
Dr Whitfield hopes the study may help people change their perspective on the world and that it may help reduce negativity.
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