It’s easy to understand that activities like eating vegetables and running can help you live longer, but research now proves even certain attitudes can improve your mortality. Between optimism and pessimism, you would think that hoping for the best would help you live longer. However, it turns out that being a little pessimistic can add years on to your life.
In a study conducted by Frieder Lang, Ph.D and his team at University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, they determined that depending on how old you, being pessimistic can decrease your risk of disabilities and death. The idea that having a bleak outlook can improve your health is usually referred to as the “dark future” or “defensive pessimism” hypothesis.
The study analyzed 11,000 German adults ages 18 to 96. In seniors (ages 65 and older) if they had a high level of optimism then they was a 10 percent increase in reporting disabilities and risk of death. Another study that showed similar results was the Longevity Project. The Longevity Project was an 80 year study that proved that optimistic children live the shortest lives. Being optimistic isn’t deadly but most studies find that being optimistic is usually associated with poor overall health. Also, people who are overly optimistic take more risk which can lead to more injuries.
There aren’t any specific health benefits to being pessimistic all the time, so it is best that you strike a balance. Being on either extreme of the optimism/pessimism spectrum is bad, so try being in the middle. The saying “Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst,” is exactly how you should balance between these two philosophies. Some situations in life require you to be positive, so you can be helpful and gain the most from the experience. Other circumstances require that you have a pessimistic attitude so you won’t be cheated and will have realistic expectations.
What are your thoughts on pessimism?
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