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Reasons to be cheerful? Optimists live longer than pessimists

Having an upbeat mindset not only makes life easier, it can positively impact your life expectancy, reducing your chances of getting chronic conditions and increasing your rate of recovery post-illness. Shane Cochrane outlines the evidence and asks if it is possible to turn that frown upside down

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Some psychologists believe that optimism is a thinking style and therefore can be learnt, making it possible for pessimists to become optimists and glean the health benefits

Some psychologists believe that optimism is a thinking style and therefore can be learnt, making it possible for pessimists to become optimists and glean the health benefits

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Some psychologists believe that optimism is a thinking style and therefore can be learnt, making it possible for pessimists to become optimists and glean the health benefits

Optimists live longer than pessimists. Considerably longer, according to research by the Boston University School of Medicine. And we're not just talking about a few extra days or weeks. In a study that involved 69,744 women and 1,429 men, researchers found that those with the highest levels of optimism had a life span that was 11 to 15pc longer than those with the lowest optimism scores. Those same high-scoring optimists also had a 50 to 70pc greater chance of achieving "exceptional longevity" - which is getting to 85 years of age.

"While research has identified many risk factors for disease and premature death, we know relatively less about positive psychological factors that can promote healthy ageing," said Lewina Lee, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, when the results were published. "This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psychological asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan."

Being optimistic means living your life in the belief that, in general, more good things will happen than bad. It's definitely a positive way to live, but can it really help you live longer?