An Optimistic Partner Brings Big Benefits
New research suggests that sharing your life with an optimistic mate may help prevent your cognitive decline. A team from Michigan State and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health followed nearly 4,457 retired heterosexual couples age 50 and older for eight years. For each couple the investigators first assessed the optimism in both partners, and then checked their cognition every two years. The researchers found that being in a couple with an optimist appeared to help prevent the onset of cognitive decline. They reported that optimists helped boost their partner’s health by encouraging healthy habits such as exercise and quitting smoking, and that these measures may help reduce risks for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline. Study author William Chopik, Ph.D., a Michigan State psychologist, wrote that partners who are optimistic and healthy “might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier or remind us to take our medicine…You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses.”
My take? Optimism and adopting a positive outlook may be the essential mental attitudes that help lead to a long and active life. Those traits appear to underlie the longevity of hundreds of residents in a southern region of Italy who range in age from 90 to 101. Researchers have found that the longest-lived residents of nine rural villages in the Cilento area south of Naples had poorer physical health but better mental health than their family members aged 51 to 75. The team also found that these 90-plus seniors are true to their personal convictions and could care less about what others think. And compared to family members in their 50s, 60s and 70s the super-seniors had significant self-confidence and decision-making skills.
William J. Chopik et al, “The association between actor/partner optimism and cognitive functioning among older couples,” Journal of Personality, November 28, 2019.
More health news from this week’s bulletin:
- Negative Health Effects From Too Much Sitting
- Life Expectancy: What Impacts Longevity?
- A light and refreshing brunch idea: Apricots & Red Quinoa
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