“Optimists are more likely to live longer than those who have a more negative approach to life, a US study has found,” BBC News reported recently. The Mail Online reports on the same study claiming that “Optimists are up to 70% more likely to live to be 85”.
The study used information collected from male war veterans and female nurses taking part in 2 long-running studies in the US. The participants were around 60 to 70 years old when they completed optimism questionnaires, and the researchers looked at whether optimism was linked to living longer.
People who had the highest optimism scores had a lifespan about 9% longer than those with the lowest scores. But despite media reports, the most optimistic were in fact no more likely to live to age 85. The 70% figure came from a result that had not taken account of all influencing factors.
Ultimately this research cannot prove cause and effect. Both optimism and lifespan may be influenced by many hereditary, health, lifestyle and personal factors. People with a good overall standard of health and wellbeing are probably more likely to be optimistic about their future. While researchers attempted to adjust their analysis for these sort of factors, it’s hard to remove their influence fully.
It’s also questionable how applicable the results of these optimism assessments, taken 15 to 30 years ago from very specific groups of older US nurses and war veterans, are to the general UK population.
Nevertheless the research highlights the importance that mental health and wellbeing can have on physical health.
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry to investigate how technology can be used to increase health span and to improve the impacts of ageing.
The Big Issue
Life span has increased in recent decades but health span, the period of time people live in good health, has not kept pace and so people are living longer with ill health. This duration of ill health can be challenging not only for the individual, but is also putting increased pressure on health and social care services.
The UK Government has announced an “Ageing society” Grand Challenge which aims to ensure that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035. This inquiry will examine whether the Government’s ambition is achievable, and which science and technology approaches would be most successful in securing this target.
How can you help?
The Committee want to hear from a wide range of people and organisations with experience and expertise relating to ageing.
Send a written submission on the inquiry webpage.
Your responses don’t have to be long and they don’t have to cover all the questions- even if you only have expertise or experiences of one question, we want to hear from you.
The questions cover the following topics:
- The scientific understanding of the ageing process, and how these areas of research could lead to treatments for delaying or managing the negative effects of ageing
- Technologies that can improve health and wellbeing in old age, and technologies that can enable independent living in old age
- Opportunities for the UK to commercialise discoveries and innovations relating to healthier ageing
- The policy implications of a healthier older population
The full list of questions can be found on the Committee webpage.
Submissions will be reviewed to decide whether they will be accepted as evidence.
The deadline for written submissions is Friday 20 September.
The website Medical News Today is an excellent source of information on a huge range of medical conditions. It publishes new information all the time, including details of the latest studies and research into diseases and conditions.
If you have a medical condition and want to find out more about it and about the current studies and latest treatments, the site is well worth a visit – you can also subscribe to their newsletter.
As ever, we’d recommend that you refer to your GP before considering any treatments and if you are worried about any aspect of your health. However, Medical News Today is a useful resource for reading around any medical subject and may help you to come to terms with your condition or help you to support a relative or friend with an illness.
Here are just a handful of their most recent articles, all aimed at older people: