Thursday, April 11, 2013

Good News for Pessimists

Do you see half a glass of your favorite beverage as half empty or half full?  Those who see it as half empty are considered pessimists, and many of them have been told all their lives that having a negative outlook is bad for their health.

Most of us believe that being optimistic is essential if we want to live a long, happy life.  While being optimistic might increase our sense of contentment and satisfaction, apparently it does not increase the length of our lives, according to an article posted by the American Psychological Society.  When German researchers studied 40,000 people between the ages of 18 and 96 over a ten year period, the results were quite interesting.

Disadvantages of Being Optimistic

According to the German researchers, when people are optimistic, they often have a life philosophy that tells them "everything will work out" or "everything will be OK."  While this seems like a great way to look at life, the downside is that people who have this attitude may be less likely to make lifestyle changes that will improve their lives.

When people focus only on the positive, they tend to believe that there is no need to worry about their bad habits, such as eating, drinking or smoking too much.  They convince themselves that, as long as they are happy, they don't have anything to worry about.

Even when a doctor points out a health concern to them, such as high blood pressure, they may tell themselves that it really isn't that serious of a problem.

The Advantages of Being Pessimistic

Pessimists, on the other hand, know that things can go wrong.  They worry about their health.  They are concerned that they may be injured in an accident or fall prey to a serious disease.

As a result, pessimists are more likely to live cautiously.  They are less likely to take unnecessary risks.  They tend to eat healthy foods.  Pessimists are also more likely to go to the doctor and follow his instructions, especially if they suspect they have health symptoms that could be serious.

In addition to taking care of their health and medical conditions, pessimists are less likely to take up dangerous hobbies such as motorcycle racing or skydiving.  In fact, they are less likely to engage in activities that are even a little bit dangerous because they are acutely aware of the risks.

When pessimists do engage in an adventurous activity, such as snow skiing, they are more likely to use all the protective equipment they can and stick to the designated trails.  While they may want to have fun from time to time, they do not want to be foolish.

The bottom line is that the German researchers discovered that pessimists actually have a lower rate of death and disability than optimists!

What Should You Do With This Information?

Most of us have a natural tendency to be either optimistic or pessimistic.  We may feel as if we have no choice in the matter.  However, we can all take a lesson from this research.  If you are a natural optimist, you may try to live a little more like a pessimist.  Try to take better care of your health.  Use safety precautions.  See the doctor, and pay attention to what he tells you.

If you are a natural pessimist, relax a little.  Life may not be quite as dangerous as you fear.  After all, you are already taking plenty of the right precautions!

Read more about the German research in this article from the American Psychological Association: 

If you are interested in reading more information about aging and retirement, check out the articles listed in the index links below. 

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of "glass half full or empty" courtesy of


  1. This is all extremely interesting information. And entertaining as well. It seems the goal we should all be working toward is becoming pessoptimists!

  2. I think you have coined a new word! I love the idea of living like a pessoptimist ... embracing the best parts of both philosophies. Thanks for the great suggestion!

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