I’m subscribed to about 1,000 health-related media and press release lists, so I can keep track of issues that I tend to write about. Most of them get funnelled directly into an email folder for me to look at later on, but I open a fair number of them as soon as they arrive, too.
Yesterday, a notice from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services caught my eye, and I immediately opened it.
The item, titled “Over 100 and Going Strong,” noted that a recent research study that is part of the larger Georgia Centenarian Study found that good attitudes really do seem to make a difference in how long a person lives.
Interesting, huh? We probably all can name a few crusty old people we know who represent the antithesis of having a good attitude. But imagine if attitude really did make the difference in how long we could live–as it appears to have done in at least one group of centenarians.
I presumed that it wasn’t all conclusive, that these people were just self-reporting that they’d had a good attitude. So I went to the original source, the paper titled “Understanding Centenarians’ Psychosocial Dynamics and Their Contributions to Health and Quality of Life” in the journal Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research. Turns out, it’s okay that people self-report: “Self-reported or subjective health serves as a useful index of physical trajectories of current health status as well as an indicator of the presence or absence of resources that might influence functional decline.” And the researchers noted that personality does seem to impact longevity and health.
What I took away from the study is that researchers need to remember not to neglect certain factors that go beyond physical health when studying people with exceptionally long life spans. “[F]ocusing exclusively on health aspects would disregard the importance of a number of psychosocial domains, including life events, personality, cognition, and social supports, that are also essential for a rewarding life at 100 and beyond,” wrote the authors.
The power of positive thinking seems to be powerful than we might have thought. Remind me of that the next time I’m grousing about something inconsequential.