Optimism, or Pessimism?


Older people who have low expectations for a satisfying future may be more likely to live longer, healthier lives than those who see brighter days ahead, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association” – Medical News Today.

Is it possible that being optimistic in predicting a positive future could lead to a greater risk of disability or even death? A new study by Dr Lang of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg collected data from the national German Socio-Economic Panel from 1993 to 2003 suggests that optimism may actually reduce chances of a better future. Respondents were asked to rate satisfaction with their lives, and also how satisfied they believe they will be in 5 years. They were then asked again five years later. In the oldest group (aged 65+), 43% of respondents had underestimated their life satisfaction, whilst 32 percent had overestimated. The analysis also revealed that each increase in overestimating future life satisfaction was related to a 9.5% increase in reports of disabilities, as well as a 10% increase in risk of death.

Lang et al believed that due to their outlook of the future being more realistic in most cases, the predictions made by older adults future satisfaction may be more accurate. They found, in their study, that good health and income were correlated with a higher decline in comparison to those with a lower income – so socio-economic status appears to be a contributing factor. But it was also discovered that higher income was related to an increased risk of disability.

This study also suggests other factors may be at play here. Illness, medical treatment and personal losses have all been implied as a driving force for health outcomes. But this isn’t the whole story. Lang et al argue that the outcomes of optimism and pessimism do depend on age and available resources.

Their findings, however, do give us an idea of how our perspectives on life can either help us, or hinder us, in taking actions that can “help improve our chances of a long and healthy life”.



“Our findings revealed that being overly optimistic in predicting a better future was associated with a greater risk of disability and death within the following decade”.

Pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions.”


Written by: Philippa Berry

Content Source – a good idea to check this article out if you would like to know what the researchers did.

Published on: 1st March 2013

Photograph Source.