If you’re an optimist, you have a much higher chance of living past 85

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A Boston University School of Medicine-led study that took place over decades links optimism and living longer. A lot longer it turns out. Researchers found that people with increased optimism are not only more likely to live longer, but they’re also more likely to reach “exceptional longevity” — meaning, living to 85 or older.

Yes, it’s true. Looking on the bright side really can help you live longer.

“This study … suggests that optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan,” Boston University School of Medicine clinical research psychologist Lewina Lee, who was the lead author on the study, said in a release.

The findings

Lee and a team of researchers from Boston University’s School of Medicine, the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, and Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health examined data on 69,744 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 1,429 men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study.

The women, ranging in age from 58 to 86, were followed for 10 years. They were all asked to complete a survey to determine their level of optimism. The men were followed for 30 years and also surveyed about how optimistic they were in 2016.

When the data was analyzed, researchers found that women and men with the highest levels of optimism had up to a 15% longer lifespan, and had 50%-70% better odds of making it to 85 years old, in comparison to the least optimistic people in the group.

The mechanism by which optimism helps people live longer is not known.

“Other research suggests that more optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behavior as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively,” said senior author Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., MPH, and co-director, Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Previous research from the University of California Davis narrowed down the age of when you are the most optimistic to 55 years old.

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