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Pessimism about health could lead to shortened lifespan

Those who are more optimistic about their health could enhance their life expectancy – while their more negative counterparts may die earlier.

Image: Photoloni via Creative Commons/Flickr

A PERSON’S EVALUATION of their health may affect length of their life – with those with a negative outlook likely to die younger than their more optimistic counterparts, according to the results of a new study.

Those who complain about their health more – regardless of whether medical evidence substantiates their view – are more likely to die ahead of those who believe their health is good, according to the study by the University of Zurich.

Participants in the study, which was initiated in the 1970s, who rated their health as “very poor” were found to be over three times more likely to die within 30 years compared with those who classified their health as “excellent”, according to the data.

The study involved more than 8,000 men and women who were asked to describe the state of their health, with answers ranging from “excellent” to “very poor”. In order to statistically remove variables that can contribute to an earlier death, researchers evaluated participants’ health at the beginning of the study, provided for family health histories and lifestyle factors such as smoking, considered education levels, marital status, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

While men rating their health as “very poor” were 3.3 time more likely to have died when the data was revisited, women were 50 per cent more likely to have died. Researchers found that the risk rose steadily as self-assessments became more negative.

“Our results indicate that people who rate their state of health as excellent have attributes that improve and sustain their health,” said specialist in preventive medicine David Fäh. “These might include a positive attitude, an optimistic outlook and a fundamental level of satisfaction with one’s own life.”

The study results support those of the World Health Organisation, which classed ‘good health’ as not merely the absence of disease but as a complete physical, mental and social well-being.

“Good doctors should therefore not just look for the presence of risk factors or diseases, but also check which health resources their patients have and boost and consolidate them if need be,” said Fäh.

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