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Study finds optimism may help you live to 85 years and beyond

Lynsey Hope, August 28, 2019 6:45PM The Sun

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Optimists are people who feel confident or happy about the future and this may help you live longer. Picture: iStock media_cameraOptimists are people who feel confident or happy about the future and this may help you live longer. Picture: iStock


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Looking on the bright side of life could help you live longer.

Scientists believe optimists are more likely to achieve “exceptional longevity*” — which means living to 85 years and beyond.

Optimists are people who feel hopeful and confident about the future.

The reasons aren’t known for certain, though experts think it could be because optimists may be able to control their emotions and behaviour and bounce back from stress.

Previous studies have found that optimists are less likely to have heart problems or die young.

For this latest research, US scientists studied around 70,000 women and men over a period of up to 30 years.

They found that on average the most optimistic had an 11 to 15 per cent longer lifespan.

They also had 50 to 70 per cent greater chance of reaching 85 years of age, compared with the least optimistic people.

media_cameraYay! The most optimistic people were found to have an 11-15 per cent longer life.

The findings could have significant public health benefits.

Professor Lewina Lee, of Boston University School of Medicine in the US, said: “This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psychosocial* asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan.

The really positive news is that the researchers believe that humans could be taught to be optimists.

“Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable* using simple techniques or therapies,” she said.

Most of the people studied were white, were reasonably well educated and were not poor. More research across a broader range of people would be needed to see if the results are similar.

“We hope that our findings will inspire further research on interventions* to enhance* positive health assets that may improve the public’s health with ageing.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Two senior men smiling media_cameraIf we do more study into optimists, we could all learn how to be more optimistic.

This article was first published in The Sun and is reproduced here with permission.


  • exceptional: out of the ordinary
  • physchosocial: combination of how we relate to others and how we think and behave as an individual
  • modifiable: teachable, able to be changed
  • interventions: actions taken to change something
  • enhance: make better


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  1. Name the journalist who wrote this story.
  2. Define an optimist.
  3. How much longer, on average, did the most optimistic live for?
  4. What does Lewina Lee do and where does she work?
  5. If you aren’t born an optimist, can you do anything about it?


1. Start a Gratitude Attitude
One thing that helps us to be more optimistic is to have a gratitude attitude. This is when you focus on the good things that happen in your life and be grateful for them. (Being grateful is like saying thanks or remembering why it’s a good thing.) These can be the big things like your team winning the Grand Final or small things like eating something really yummy, playing your favourite game or a person who is special to you.

Think about this week. Write down five things from this week that you are grateful for. Try to do it every week. Some people do it every day! (Don’t forget to think about the little things.)

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
In the story, the researchers say that more research needs to be done because the most of the people who were studied were white, well educated and not poor. Why do you think that they need to research a broader range of people?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

Syl-la-ble Sleuth
A good way to find a syllable is to clap as you speak.

Search through the text. Make a list of all the adjectives you can find. Classify them into the number of syllables each word has.

For example: 2 syllables, 3 syllables, 4 syllables, 5 or more syllables.

Longer doesn’t mean better.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you describe yourself as an optimist? Do you think you could become more optimistic if you were taught how?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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