Optimism from Age 50-100
If you have ever wondered whether life gets any better or whether you'll be any happier, optimism research has some reassuring answers.
Generally, things get better or at least people become happier and more optimistic with age.
In one of the largest studies on optimism over time, researchers surveyed 9,790 older adults to see how optimism changes during old age. They found that optimism generally peaked in a person's 50s and 60s.
It declined in a person's 70s and 80s, often driven by health issues and chronic conditions. But, once you reach your 90s and 100s, it starts bouncing back up.
Optimism Over a Lifetime
If you're in your 20s and 30s and feeling less than optimistic, a second study provides some welcomed news. Optimism is generally the lowest in your 20s and 30s.
However, it rapidly grows until you reach your 50s. This means that on average, you should expect things to start looking better with time.
This second study followed 1,160 Mexican Americans over a period of 7 years to see how their optimism changed over time.
From this set of volunteers, researchers confirmed that optimism generally peaks in a person's 50s and 60s. They also found that optimism during this time is significantly higher than optimism in a person's 20s and 30s.
Obtaining Data from a Homogenous Population
Optimism Depends on Life Events
As you can probably guess by looking at your friends, not everyone is equally optimistic. Some people appear perpetually optimistic while others have a constant dim view on life.
A study backs this up with data. They found that individuals who have had many positive life events, such as salary increases and good relationships, have more optimism at every age than individuals with more negative life events.
People who have had more positive life events generally peak in optimism in their late 50s and early 60s, while people who have had many negative life events peak in optimism in their 40s.
Optimism & Health
Optimism doesn't just feel good, it's also good for your health according to experts:
The idea of optimism leading to better health has been studied. Researchers have reviewed the results of over 80 studies to look for common findings. They found optimism had a remarkable impact on physical health. The study examined overall longevity, survival from a disease, heart health, immunity, cancer outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, pain tolerance, and other health topics. It seemed that those who had a more optimistic outlook did better and had better results than those who were pessimistic.
If you're feeling down, consider the fact that everyone generally has a lot to look forward to. On average, things get better. Even when optimism declines in old age, it doesn't decline as much as it increases. People generally stay pretty optimistic through their 70s, 80s, and 90s.
The research does show that much of this depends on your health. Taking care of your health in your 30s and 40s can help prevent many of the chronic conditions that take a toll on optimism once you reach your golden years.
Related: Emotional Stress and the Heart
Good health can lead to good feelings. However, bad feelings can likewise lead to worse health. Stressful life events not only affect optimism; they can also affect heart disease.
Emotional stress damages your heart and your health. New research shows significantly higher risks of heart attack and stroke after psychiatric diagnoses from stressful life events. PTSD was the most damaging stress-related disorder.
Related: Commuting and Happiness
A small thing you can try to increase your happiness and well-being is walking or biking to work!
Did you know that how you commute is linked to happiness? Studies across two countries have come to similar findings. People who bike or walk to work are happier.