This whole idea seems so counter-intuitive that I decided to seek more information about the original study. It turns out that a German study reached this conclusion based on annual surveys in which respondents were asked to predict their "life satisfaction" 5 years down the line. Researchers were surprised to discover that among people 65 and older, those who had predicted a gloomier future were actually healthier than those who had been overly optimistic. Five years later, the pessimists had fewer disabilities and, more importantly, they were still alive. And the reason? It was speculated that worriers take fewer chances and therefore rarely put themselves at risk.
If you think this inference is a bit depressing, you'll be pleased to know that most discussions about the power of pessimism also point out alternative conclusions from American research indicating that Optimists Live Longer! This leads me to wonder if national characteristics are affecting the results. Are Germans just gloomier than Americans? Someone should do this research in Canada where I predict a long-range study would show that cautious optimism/ pessimistic positiveness is the best way to a long and healthy life.
In any case, it looks as if we do have a legitimate choice, and I know which one appeals to me. Pessimists might be safe and sound, but are they having any fun? Do their friends want to visit? Do they ever travel? Or will they live to 100 having ultimately bored themselves to death? Reading about the benefits of pessimism reminds me of that other bit of advice about longevity: Eat Less, Live Longer! This is the regime that advises us all to reduce our calorie intake by about one quarter. But who wants to be thin and old and grumpy? When I think about applying these limits to myself, I invariably decide that I'll forfeit a couple of years for the sake of the occasional dessert.
So I'll cultivate optimism! And maybe I'll take a few risks, but nothing too drastic. I am, after all, an older Canadian.
***And as if to illustrate my point, there is a YouTube video making the rounds this week: Dancing Nana While you are admiring her moves, notice how she uses the handrail to good effect.
Runaround Sue, rock on!