In the study, researchers at Duke Medical Center tracked 2,800 patients who had been hospitalized with heart disease. Patients were asked to fill out a survey to determine how they felt about their medical diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Ten years later, the group who answered the questions with a negative attitude saw 46 deaths per 100 people. But those with the most positive approach had 32 deaths per 100 subjects, when adjusted for factors like age and previous heart problems.
“Our research shows better physical recovery and a higher likelihood of survival is linked to attitude—personal beliefs about their illness,” John C. Barefoot, the study’s lead author and professor emeritus in the department of psychiatry at Duke, told USA Today.
Barefoot explains that optimistic people might be better at dealing with their diagnosis, more likely to take medicine regularly and listen to doctors, and better at managing stress compared to pessimistic patients.
There is a danger of being too optimistic, though. The newly released book, The Longevity Project, analyzed data from 1,528 children who were 10 years old when the study began in 1921. People who were more optimistic and cheerful as kids died approximately 2 years before their less-positive peers. Why? “The Longevity Project participants who led their lives thinking ‘everything will be fine’ didn’t evaluate risks. They didn’t look at things logically or rationally, and they tended to be heavier drinkers, more likely to smoke, and had riskier hobbies,” explains Leslie Martin, Ph.D., one of the study’s leaders and a professor of psychology at La Sierra University.
OK, being optimistic doesn’t make you a real-life, bullet-dodging Supermen—it’s all about striking a balance. For instance, taking your medications because you think they’ll work is being smart. Not taking your meds because you think everything will work out fine is just loco. So don’t overdose on optimism.
Why are we still on team half-full? Turns out, being optimistic doesn’t just help your health. It can also help your career and sex life!
Standing out among the masses of ambitious and intelligent job applicants isn’t easy. But if you’re an optimist, you’ve got a leg up on the competition.
Researchers from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business surveyed 232 MBA students about their dispositional optimism—the belief that good things usually happen to them—to find out how it affected their job searches. Ultimately, optimists experienced better success than pessimists, even when both groups were armed with the same skill set. According to the 2-year study, optimists searched for jobs less intensively than their peers but received job offers more quickly. Furthermore, once an optimist landed his dream job, he was 5 to 10 percent more likely to be promoted in the first 2 years than a guy with a more sour outlook on life.
What makes optimists so successful? The researchers suggest that optimists handle negative feedback better and have more effective coping skills than others. When they come across a temporary hurdle, they don’t just throw in the towel. They balance the desire to give up and the need to keep going.
So here’s the thing: Don’t let your inner doomsayer hold you back. Whatever your career goals may be, your success depends not only on your talent, but also your sincere belief that you will ultimately come out on top.
Meeting and Dating Women
If longevity and career success weren’t good enough reasons to turn you from a cynic to an idealist, than maybe this one will do the trick. Optimists tend to have better relationships. That’s right: Ladies love optimists.
In a 2006 study of dating couples from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that optimism may lead to more satisfied and longer lasting relationships. During an argument, they discovered that an optimist’s positive view of his partner prevented—or at least lessened—his urge to hash it out with his girlfriend. Instead, he refocused his attention from the negative things to the constructive things his partner said. Because of this perceived support, both partners were happier and felt the disagreement was better resolved one week later.
So the next time she says, “You don’t spend enough time with me,” don’t automatically go into fight-or-flight mode. Ask her what she wants, then suggest ways you can be more attentive. She’ll be appreciative of the fact that you’re trying to understand her point of view. If you need help figuring out what to say to cool down a squabble. You’ll both be thankful you did: Researchers also found that the relationships of male optimists lasted longer than the relationships of male pessimists when they followed up with the couples 1 year later.