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Health

Optimistic women are more likely to live past 90, study finds

They also found living longer transcends race and ethnicity.

longevity, long life, women, old age
Photo by Robin Noguier on Unsplash

Who knew optimism was the key to a longer life?

There's something to be said for having a positive outlook on life. Optimism may not only make you happier, it can also help you live longer. Yes, you're reading that correctly: Being optimistic can actually add years to your life. A study done by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found a correlation between lifespan and optimism in women. The authors discovered that optimistic women had a longer lifespan, many living past the age of 90.

In a previous version of this study, data showed the correlation between living past the age of 85 and higher levels of optimism. But that study looked at a mostly white people. This later study expanded the pool of participants to include more people from diverse backgrounds.



In this version of the study, the research team looked at data from 159, 255 participants from the Women’s Health Initiative. The group included women between the ages of 50 and 79 (specifically postmenopausal women). The women had to fall into that age bracket between 1993 and 1998, then they were followed for 26 years.

“Although optimism itself may be affected by social structural factors, such as race and ethnicity, our research suggests that the benefits of optimism may hold across diverse groups,” Hayami Koga, a Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Population Health Sciences program in partnership with Harvard Chan School, and lead author of the study said in a press release.

According to the press release, the study "found no interaction between optimism and any categories of race and ethnicity, and these trends held true after taking into account demographics, chronic conditions, and depression."

“A lot of previous work has focused on deficits or risk factors that increase the risks for diseases and premature death. 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," Koga said.

Think about it. There's a lot to be said about positive thinking—it's not always easy to do, and yes, toxic positivity is a very real thing. But reframing your way of thinking to allow for more positivity clearly isn't a bad thing. Will it allow you to transcend things like structural racism, discrimination and other legitimate life barriers? Absolutely not. It will, however, give you a stronger foundation to pull from when those things start to make you weary.

I don't know if there's a way to teach people to be optimistic without it feeling hokey. However, if you tell someone, "Hey, this could put years on your life clock," they might be more interested. Koga believes that the findings of this study can allow people to look at how they approach their health.

As the study reveals, a lot of the factors that contribute to longevity that we traditionally think of, such as diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes, don't seem to hold as much weight compared to an optimistic outlook. According to the study's findings, lifestyle choices "accounted for less than a quarter of the optimism-lifespan association," and more than half of the women in the group (53%) achieved "exceptional longevity." It defines exceptional longevity as living 90 years or longer. When compared to the least optimistic participants, the optimistic women had a 5.4% longer lifespan. According to the CDC, as of 2020, the average life expectancy for women is 80.5 years. So those who have a more optimistic outlook might live 10 years longer than the current average lifespan. That definitely gives you something to think about!

“We tend to focus on the negative risk factors that affect our health,” Koga said. “It is also important to think about the positive resources such as optimism that may be beneficial to our health, especially if we see that these benefits are seen across racial and ethnic groups.”

Health

A child’s mental health concerns shouldn’t be publicized no matter who their parents are

Even politicians' children deserve privacy during a mental health crisis.

A child's mental health concerns shouldn't be publicized.

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.


It's an unspoken rule that children of politicians should be off limits when it comes to public figure status. Kids deserve the ability to simply be kids without the media picking them apart. We saw this during Obama's presidency when people from both ends of the political spectrum come out to defend Malia and Sasha Obama's privacy and again when a reporter made a remark about Barron Trump.

This is even more important when we are talking about a child's mental health, so seeing detailed reports about Ted Cruz's 14-year-old child's private mental health crisis was offputting, to say it kindly. It feels icky for me to even put the senator's name in this article because it feels like adding to this child's exposure.

When a child is struggling with mental health concerns, the instinct should be to cocoon them in safety, not to highlight the details or speculate on the cause. Ever since the news broke about this child's mental health, social media has been abuzz, mostly attacking the parents and speculating if the child is a member of the LGBTQ community.

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Putting creative work out into the world to be evaluated and judged is nerve-wracking enough as it is. Having to market your work, especially if you're not particularly extroverted or sales-minded, is even worse.

So when you're a newly published author holding a book signing and only two of the dozens of people who RSVP'd show up, it's disheartening if not devastating. No matter how much you tell yourself "people are just busy," it feels like a rejection of you and your work.

Debut novelist Chelsea Banning recently experienced this scenario firsthand, and her sharing it led to an amazing deluge of support and solidarity—not only from other aspiring authors, but from some of the top names in the writing business.

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This article originally appeared on 04.15.19


On May 28, 2014, 13-year-old Athena Orchard of Leicester, England, died of bone cancer. The disease began as a tumor in her head and eventually spread to her spine and left shoulder. After her passing, Athena's parents and six siblings were completely devastated. In the days following her death, her father, Dean, had the difficult task of going through her belongings. But the spirits of the entire Orchard family got a huge boost when he uncovered a secret message written by Athena on the backside of a full-length mirror.

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This article originally appeared on 01.22.19


The legality of abortion is one of the most polarized debates in America—but it doesn't have to be.

People have big feelings about abortion, which is understandable. On one hand, you have people who feel that abortion is a fundamental women's rights issue, that our bodily autonomy is not something you can legislate, and that those who oppose abortion rights are trying to control women through oppressive legislation. On the other, you have folks who believe that a fetus is a human individual first and foremost, that no one has the right to terminate a human life, and that those who support abortion rights are heartless murderers.

Then there are those of us in the messy middle. Those who believe that life begins at conception, that abortion isn't something we'd choose—and we'd hope others wouldn't choose—under most circumstances, yet who choose to vote to keep abortion legal.

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