Why looking on the bright side is not good for your health

What pessimists have known for years is true – being positive is not good for your health and will shorten your lifespan.

What pessimists have known for years is true – being positive is not good for your health and will shorten your life span.

This is the extraordinary finding of a 10-year study of 40,000 Germans aged 18 to 96 published by the American Psychological Association.

Those interviewed were asked to rate how satisfied they were with their lives and how satisfied they might be in five years.

More than two-thirds of older Germans aged 65 to 96 who thought life would only get worse actually had better health outcomes.

In contrast, those who were overly optimistic about the days ahead had a greater risk of disability or death within 10 years.

Professor Frieder Lang, the lead author of the study, says “pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions”.

“The optimists are those who basically close their eyes, shut their eyes and don’t really want to know about the truth about the inevitable costs of ageing and death.

“These findings shed new light on how our perspectives can either help or hinder us in taking actions that can help improve our chances of a long healthy life.”

Of those interviewed, 43% of the oldest group were found to have under-estimated their future life satisfaction, 25% had predicted accurately and 32% had over-estimated.

As Victor Meldrew, the grumpy old man of One Foot In The Grave TV series fame might say: “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.”

rvaughan@nbr.co.nz

9 comments
Login in or Register to view & post comments