There's bad news today for pessimists, but they were already expecting that. According to a new study, women who are optimists live longer than those who are pessimistic.
University of Pittsburgh researchers studied data from the Women's Health Initiative, an ongoing study of 100,000 women over 50 that started in 1994. Time reports that at the beginning of the study, participants were asked to respond to whether they agreed with statement like "In uncertain times, I expect the worst." Eight years later, researchers examined the women's death rates and found that those who were optimistic were 14% more likely to be alive than the pessimists. Research showed that the difference between optimists and pessimists was even more pronounced among black women. While white pessimists were 13% more likely to have died eight years into the study, pessimistic black women were 33% more likely to have died.
While there have been other studies on optimism, health and lifestyle variables were eliminated more comprehensively in this study than in the past, so that optimism could be looked at on its own. Dr. Hilary Tindle, lead author of the study, tells Time:
Taking into account income, education, health behaviors like [controlling] blood pressure and whether or not you are physically active, whether or not you drink or smoke, we still see optimists with a decreased risk of death compared to pessimists ... I was surprised that the relationship was independent of all of these factors.
Researchers are not entirely sure what caused the results. Tindle suggests that it may be due to optimistic people having more friends and therefore more people to rely on, or following medical advice more closely. She says it's possible that optimists have a physiological makeup that helps them manage stress better. While being optimistic may not hurt, the research only found that it is associated with longevity, not a direct cause, so if you want to maintain your cynical ways it probably won't kill you.