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Study: Pessimists live longer, healthier lives

The Local · 28 Feb 2013, 14:20

Published: 28 Feb 2013 14:20 GMT+01:00

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Researchers in Germany and Switzerland found that older people who believe their life satisfaction will be above average in future face a 10-percent higher mortality risk or are more likely to develop physical health problems, the DIW think-tank said.

"It is possible that a pessimistic outlook leads elderly people to look after themselves and their health better and take greater precautions against risks," said one of the researchers, Frieder Lang.

"It seems that older people who have a low expectation of how contented they will be in future lead longer and healthier lives than those who believe their future is rosy," DIW said.

The study was conducted by a team from the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, the Berlin-based DIW as well as Humboldt University in Berlin and the university of Zurich.

They analysed long-term data compiled between 1993 and 2003 where the same people belonging to three different age groups were asked every year to assess their current level of life satisfaction and how contented they expected to be in five years.

Over the 10-year period the researchers checked with each participant six times whether their expected level of satisfaction tallied with reality five years on.

Results showed 25 percent of older participants realistically estimated their future contentment, while around 43 percent underestimated it and 32 percent overestimated, the DIW said.

Story continues below…

Young adults mostly had an unrealistically rosy view of their future, while middle-aged people were largely spot on, it said.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:19 February 28, 2013 by simski
I'd rather live happy and short than mope around for a couple more years.
16:17 February 28, 2013 by Bulldawg82
I'm optimistic that I will live longer.
17:54 February 28, 2013 by ND1000
@simski, well said. I agree.
17:57 February 28, 2013 by mignargon
And who wants to be longer if you're pessimist?
19:11 February 28, 2013 by yllusion
Optimism shouldn't be confused with lack of judgement and irresponsibility. Did this study really differentiate these things? If we look at people who are very pessimistic, those who even suffer from depression, they are often self neglecting, auto punishing and even suicidal. You have also to assess how much care people take of themselves. Pessimistic people may be more aware of dangers and therefore protect themselves better against risks and diseases, while optimistic people due to ignorance or due to a naive mind may be less aware of risks and consequently expose themselves to danger.

So, being optimistic or pessimistic without knowing how much care one takes of him/herself doesn't mean anything.
21:35 February 28, 2013 by McM
I was afraid of that. Or was I just a frayed knot?
13:22 March 1, 2013 by ichbines
The logic is right I think. Life has an overall tendency to be difficult, unfair and disappointing. Pessimists who assume this, are not depressed because they have already assumed they were going to have defeat and disappointment. Optimists however falsely assume life will treat them right and as a result they are constantly disappointed and depressed.
15:41 March 1, 2013 by Bulldawg82
I'm optimistic that I will turn into a pessimist one day.
00:31 March 2, 2013 by yllusion
@ichbines You are assuming that optimists are liers and pessimists are honest. If we assume that, nothing more makes sense in the research. We have to compare people that take the same amount of care about their health, that eat similar things, that do comparable amount of physical exercises, that have comparable genetic background, etc., but one is constantly satisfied with life, seeing everything in a positive way, always in good mood, and the other is constantly unsatisfied with life, seeing everything in a negative way and constantly in bad mood. And in the end we can't escape to the fact that what really matters is living better, not necessarily longer.
11:09 March 2, 2013 by Roberto Gold
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
13:40 March 3, 2013 by raandy
yllusion we could make the argument that optimists are liberals and pessimists are conservative -:)
13:09 March 9, 2013 by sszorin
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
07:09 March 12, 2013 by wegosolo
This article is just a cheap ploy to keep Germans critical. Humph!
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