Study: pessimists live longer than optimists

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Pessimists live longer than optimists

A meta-study by German researchers revealed that pessimists apparently have a low risk of death as optimists. People who think excessively carefree of an optimal future apparently destroy it with overly positive thoughts. A pessimistic view is better for health.

Trust your own body and look at the future without fear. So far, scientists have assumed that this "positive basic attitude" also complicates a longer life. However, a large-scale joint study by the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, the German Institute for Economic Research, the Humboldt University in Berlin and the University of Zurich came to the completely opposite result that could be summarized in three words: "Pessimists live longer". If you are too optimistic in old age, you may risk a higher risk of illness and death.

For the evaluation, the scientists analyzed the data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), which was collected between 1993 and 2003. Every year, the test subjects were asked to state how satisfied they were with their lives and how they rate their future prospects in terms of satisfaction. The answers were then checked against actual expectations. They differentiated the groups of participants into three age groups: "18 to 39 year olds, 40 to 64 year olds and over 65 year olds."

Above-average picture of the future dies faster
The result showed that those older respondents who rated their future prospects as above average had a ten percent higher risk of suffering from physical illnesses or striving ahead prematurely. Study author Frieder Lang from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg believes that "possibly pessimistic future expectations may encourage seniors to take even better care of their own health and to protect themselves from dangers". However, the researchers cannot provide evidence of the thesis.

The results in detail: About 43 percent of seniors "underestimated their future satisfaction, 32 percent overestimated them and 25 percent realistically assessed their satisfaction in the future."

Young people are mostly unrealistic about the future
It was striking that, unlike older adults, young people mostly "painted an unrealistically rosy picture of the future". If the participants were middle-aged, the assessments were mostly close to reality. The older the respondents, the more pessimistic the future.

A surprising result was that pessimists are apparently very healthy and have above-average income. “We were surprised that the respondents were more pessimistic about the future, the more stable their health and the higher their income,” says Lang. According to the researchers, an indicator can also be seen here. Lang may be more sensitive to the limitations of their lives. They are very likely to take care of maintaining their current health status rather than hoping for supposed improvement, as the study authors write in the renowned "Psychology and Aging" journal.

Different studies, different results
A study by Swiss researchers from the University of Zurich came to a completely different conclusion. In a survey of 8,000 people, it emerged that the risk of death over the 30-year investigation period was about three times higher for a "very bad" assessment of one's own health than for a "very good" one. The scientists believe that their results, in turn, are German, that people who rate their health as very good also have opportunities to actively promote their health.

Largest long-term study in Germany
The Socio-Economic Panel: The Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) is the largest long-term study in Germany. Many disciplines use the data and numerous studies have been able to research groundbreaking results. For the SOEP, the TNS Infratest Social Research survey institute has surveyed several thousand people every year since 1984. There are currently around 30,000 respondents in more than 14,000 households. The SOEP data provide information on income, employment, education, health and life satisfaction, among other things. (sb)

Also read:
Optimistic people live longer
Negative messages are ignored by people

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