Feeling good? You're likely to live longer
Are you energetic, happy and do you enjoy life? Are you optimistic and do you have a sense of humour? If you answer 'yes' to these questions, you have a positive attitude to life – and, according to bio-psychologists at University College London, you'll live longer. Especially if you're healthy and over sixty.
The researchers belong to the school of 'positive psychology': an up and coming branch of psychology, which rather than focusing on problems, looks at personal traits and emotions such as happiness, joy and humour.
In 2008 Yoichi Chida and Andrew Steptoe published a metastudy in which they collated the results of 70 epidemiological studies on the effect of positive characteristics and feelings on life expectancy, and re-analysed them.
Healthy people who are contented are 18 percent less likely to die than the average, according to the figure below. Positive feelings are good for the over-sixties in particular: their mortality rate declines by 26 percent, and also offer cardiovascular protection. The chance of cardiovascular related death is 29 percent less normal in positive thinkers.
Positive thinking has less effect in people who are ill. A positive frame of mind only reduces the mortality rate by 2 percent in ill people, although in people with kidney failure and HIV a positive attitude does increase survival chances considerably.
Of course you might wonder to what extent you can change your attitude and mood yourself or through therapy, and – if you can - whether a 'synthetic' positive attitude protects as well as a 'natural' positive attitude. The researchers – as you might expect from positive psychologists – are optimistic.
"It is possible that public health and educational programs targeted at increasing resilience to life stress and promoting positive well-being will be beneficial", the psychologists conclude, "whereas attention to the enhancement of positive states as well as the elimination of negative affective states may improve patient adaptation to physical illness."
Psychosom Med. 2008 Sep;70(7):741-56.
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Psychology Of Longevity