Optimism may actually help one have a longer life according to a new study which sought to analyze the possible cause-effect relation between a long life and optimism.
The new study was carried out by a team of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led by Eric Kim.
Study results were published earlier this week, in the American Journal of Epidemiology on December 7. Eric Kim, study author and research fellow at the aforementioned University went to offer details.
The research for the study was based on data gathered by the Nurses’ Health Study and involved 70,021 women, with a 70-years average age value.
As the women were long-running participants in the survey, the data they offered was quite valuable. Back in 2004, the respective women answered an optimism questionnaire. Researchers then tracked the numbers of deaths from in between 2006 and 2012.
The 2-years gap was taken so as to rule out terminally ill participants. Starting with 2006, the researchers compared questionnaire responses with death rates.
A number of factors were included and controlled when performing the study. These included the women’s age, education level, marital status, and race.
Based on the questionnaire and the aforementioned factors, research showed that optimistic women were 29 percent less likely to die shortly.
When compared to the less optimistic, they had a higher chance of living through the next time period as the study had a 6-years follow-up.
A disease risk specific analysis was also carried out. As such, the optimistic women were seen to present a 38 percent reduced risk of dying from a stroke. The trend maintained in heart disease cases as they had a 38 percent reduced risk.
Infection saw a 52 percent risk reduction and respiratory diseases a 37 percent one. Death from cancer also saw a 16 percent rate decrease.
The researchers also ran additional tests that controlled existing health conditions. These included diabetes, high cholesterol, and cancer.
Even amongst the already suffering women, the more optimistic registered a 27 percent lower risk of dying.
Smoking habits and exercise were also included and present a 14 percent lower risk. The general decrease, which takes each and every of the said factors into account, is of 9 percent.
Other previous studies have tried to study the relation between an optimistic nature and death risks.
However, the current study has a distinctive feature. This feature is its significant size and also the fact that it takes into account all the different variables.
The study lead, Kim, states that an optimistic outlook could potentially lead to an improved health outcome. This would be achieved through several mechanisms.
A clear relation between optimism and a longer life has yet to established as a cause-effect has not been determined.
However, Kim stated that optimistic people may cope better with life’s challenges. Kim also proposes that the optimistic attitude may potentially impact biological functions.
As such, it could possibly have an effect on the immune function or help lower inflammation levels.
There are still quite a lot of factors to be taken into consideration. It has yet to be determined if optimism may lead to a healthier life.
According to researchers, such a theory would require a clinical trial so as to confirm or infirm it. Kim also points out that diseases develop for all sorts of reasons. As such, not even optimism could keep them under control.
However, optimistic patients may come to beneficiate from better support systems and social interactions.
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