Positive thinkers live longer

Are you thinking yourself into an early grave? New research presented today demonstrates the increased risk of an early death for people who have a negative self-perception about ageing.

ANU researcher, Dr Kerry Sargent-Cox

There has been a lot of research into the power of positive thinking, but when it comes to ageing, a positive approach has clear links to a longer life.

New research presented today demonstrates a link between an older person’s attitude to ageing and their mortality. 

“A negative self-perception of ageing increases your risk of dying earlier by 12 per cent and risk of cardiovascular event by 34 per cent,” said Dr Kerry Sargent-Cox from the ARC Centre for Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR)

Dr Sargent-Cox said the research was based on data collected as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ALSA) and found a direct correlation between negative perceptions of ageing and dying. 

“This research tests the ‘self-fulfiling prophecy’ notion and finds that negative self-perception impacts your ability to age well.  Approaching old age with negative expectations directly affects how long you live.

“There has been a lot of research into the power of positive thinking, but when it comes to ageing, a positive approach has clear links to a longer life.”

Part of the first wave of findings arising from the ALSA, a longitudinal study of Australia’s aged population based at Flinders University, is now in its twentieth year and is set to produce a raft of findings that will yield new insights into how we age. 

Part of the research included participants agreeing or disagreeing with a range of ‘self-perception’ test statements including: 

• Things keep getting worse as I get older

• I have as much pep as I had last year

• As I get older, things are better than I thought they would be

• I am as happy now as I was when I was younger

• As I get older, I am less useful

“One of the reasons self-perception is so important is because it affects how people behave. 

“Expectations impact a person’s decision to go for a walk, seek medical advice for their persistent pain problem, or explore options to manage their arthritis,” Dr Sargent-Cox said. 

“It’s these decisions that can ultimately affect your quality of life as an older person and hasten your death.

“Our next step with this research will be to examine ways to improve our expectations and self-perceptions of ageing – in order to achieve positive ageing.” 

The Self-Perceptions of Ageing and Health research was presented as part of today’s Symposium on the Psychology of Healthy Ageing hosted by the Centre for Ageing Health and Wellbeing based at the Australian National University

Tags: arc, centre-for-excellence-in-population-ageing-research, cepar, kerry-sargent-cox, positive ageing, research,

2 thoughts on “Positive thinkers live longer

  1. Couldn’t it be the case that people perceive things are getting worse as they age because they ARE getting worse (eg in terms of illness/disability), and that those people are more likely to die earlier, because of their accurately self-diagnosed health issues? In other words, the causality runs in the opposite direction from that identified by the researchers?

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