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Think Positive About Aging and Live Longer

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Updated April 26, 2009

Be Positive and Add 7.5 Years to Your Life:

Research shows that how you perceive aging affects how long you will live. In a study of 660 people, those with more positive perceptions of their own aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer. This effect remained after other factors such as age, gender, income, loneliness and health status were controlled.

Look Forward to Aging While You Are Young:

The study compared death rates of the 660 study participants to their answers to a survey 23 years ago. Therefore, adjusting your perception of aging while you're still young can have a tremendous effect on your life expectancy.

Improving Resiliency:

No one knows for sure why a positive attitude seems to lead to a longer life. Researchers believe that positive thinking about aging can increase a person's will to live, making him or her more resilient to illness and more proactive about health. Another explanation given was that mental stress of aging is lower for people who have a positive attitude. Positive thinking and stress reduction have also been linked.

Finding Insight as You Age:

What's so great about aging? Good question. Our society prizes youth and beauty above all. Messages about aging tend to emphasize the negative aspects. But, like fine wine, people should get better as they age. Experience, combined with maturity, gives older people great insight. Older people are more in touch with spirituality and the priorities which have true depth. By following a simple, healthy lifestyle you can preserve your health and energy your whole life.

How Positive Attitudes Compare to Other Longevity Boosters:

Here is a brief list of the number of years that each of these health factors are believed to add (remember these numbers are for mortality and do not consider the quality of life):

  • low blood pressure: 4 years
  • low cholesterol readings: 4 years
  • healthy weight: 1-3 years
  • not smoking: 14 years
  • regular exercise: 1-3 years

Source: Levy BR, et al. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2002 Aug; 83(2):261-70.

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