It can hardly be surprising that optimism has been identified as the, or at least an, elixir of life. After all, a sense of possibility makes things possible. The convex is also true — pessimism, a sense of fatality, probably pre-ordains poor outcomes in most ventures.
Boston University School of Medicine has gone further. It has concluded, after completing more than 70,000 case studies, that an optimistic person is more likely to live a longer life than a person with a less ebullient outlook.
The study found that the most optimistic men and women enjoy 11%-15% longer lives. They also had 50%-70% greater odds of reaching age 85, compared with the least optimistic groups. However, the researchers were unable to reach any worthwhile conclusion on why optimism helps people live longer, so the theory, albeit proven, remains a mystery.
This raises all sorts of quandaries. It seems reasonable to say that optimism is a character trait from birth, just like a gloomier, less gung-ho disposition which, if you accept it, suggests we are not all born equal — especially as the research suggests that more optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behaviour and recover from setbacks more effectively than their pessimistic peers.
Valuable as this research undoubtedly is, it might have been more so had it suggested how optimism might be inculcated and sustained in this out-of-kilter world.