Can Optimism Decrease the Risk of Illness and Disease Among the Elderly?

Research suggests that optimistic individuals are more likely to live a healthier and longer life. However, more longitudinal studies are necessary to learn more about when, why, how and for whom optimism plays a role in good health and whether interventions that enhance optimism will yield health benefits. We urge a skeptical yet fair-minded attitude on the part of researchers and that they pay particular attention to mechanisms.

Even if optimism proves not to be a strong cause of good health, freedom from disease and longevity are not the only goals of life. Quality of life matters in addition to quantity of life, and it is clear from research that optimism enhances one’s quality of life across the lifespan with little cost and minimal side effects.

This study is one in a series supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio to explore Positive Health, an emerging concept that seeks to demonstrate that in addition to health risks, people also have health assets, and that these assets can be strengthened to produce a healthier life. These health assets could include biological factors, such as high heart rate variability; subjective factors, such as optimism; and functional factors, such as a stable marriage.

 

This study is one in a series supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio to explore Positive Health, an emerging concept that seeks to demonstrate that in addition to health risks, people also have health assets, which can be strengthened to produce a healthier life. These health assets could include biological factors, such as high heart rate variability; subjective factors, such as optimism; and functional factors, such as a stable marriage.

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