A group of nursing home residents

Optimism appears to promote good health and long lifespans across diverse racial and ethnic groups, according to a large study using data from the Women’s Health Initiative.  

Optimism has been linked to healthy aging and lifespans up to 90 years of age. But studies have mostly been limited to populations of non-Hispanic Whites, the researchers noted. In the new investigation, data came from more than 150,000 women representing Black, non-Hispanic White, Hispanic/Latina and Asian racial and ethnic groups.

Across all groups, women with the higher optimism levels were more likely to have longer lifespans than their peers with the lowest optimism levels. The most optimistic individuals had a greater likelihood of “exceptional” survival to age 90, reported Hayami K. Koga, M.D., of Harvard University, and colleagues.

Notably, lifestyle did not have a major effect on these results, they added.

Preventive healthcare often focuses on the deficits or risk factors that raise the odds of disease and premature death, but the study results reveal another care target, Koga said in a statement.

“Our findings suggest that there’s value to focusing on positive psychological factors, like optimism, as possible new ways of promoting longevity and healthy aging across diverse groups,” she concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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