Optimists Live 19%
Longer Than Pessimists
By Richard Macey

ROCHESTER, Minn. (Reuters) - Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, reporting on a study that spanned three decades, said on Tuesday they have found that optimistic people live about 19 percent longer than pessimists.
``It confirmed our common-sense belief,'' said Toshihiko Maruta, a psychiatrist who was the lead researcher in the project. ``It tells us that mind and body are linked and that attitude has an impact on the final outcome, death.''
The finding came from a look at 839 people living in the Minnesota county where Mayo is headquartered. They were among a group given a personality survey between 1962 and 1965 which detected how people habitually explain the causes of life's event and then classified them as optimists, pessimists or a bit of both.
In looking at the test subjects 30 years later and comparing them against their expected survival rates, the researchers found that those classified as optimists had a significantly better survival rate while there was a 19 percent increase in the risk of death for the pessimists.
The report, published in the February issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, did not try to explain why positive attitude was equated with longevity. It said that optimists may be less likely to develop depression and helplessness or they might be more positive in seeking medical help and taking care of themselves, with less fatalistic thinking about their own health.
In an editorial published in the same issue commenting on the study, Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said pessimism is both identifiable early in life and can be changed.
As a result, he said, it might be possible to put people into programs to change their way of thinking and lower their risk for physical illness.


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