Pessimists die earlier, study finds

Do you see the glass half-full or half-empty? Well, what if I tell you that people who are pessimistic die at least two years earlier? Would that change the way you see things?

Researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia, found that people who are pessimistic die earlier than those who don’t have overtly negative or positive views.

They found that people with negative outlooks about the present or future died about two years earlier than the average person. 

The team looked at a questionnaire of around 3,000 participants aged 50 or older. 

The questionnaire was part of the Life Orientation Test, which looked at the health of Australians between 1993 and 1995 with follow-up information only available through the end of 2009.

Participants were given a score on an optimism-pessimism scale based on how much they agreed or disagreed with optimistic and pessimistic statements.  

These statements included: “I’m always optimistic about my future” or “If something can go wrong for me, it will”. 

Those who scored higher as pessimists were likely to die two years earlier on average than those who did not rate as pessimistic.

Pessimists were more likely to die earlier from cardiovascular disease and other causes of death, but not cancer.

However, the study did not find that being particularly optimistic increased life expectancy. 

It’s not clear why pessimists die sooner, but lead author Dr John Whitfield does not believe the disease causes the pessimism or vice versa.

“People who are pessimistic might be thought to not look after themselves and their health as well – they might think there’s no point in following advice about diet and exercise and so on,” he said.