Glass half full

Glass half full

Yet another study, this time by Lewina Lee of the Boston University School of Medicine published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found that the “psychological asset” of optimism leads to a longer and happier life.

Lee and her colleagues have found that people who look at the brighter side of things have a greater chance of living beyond 85 years. Optimists, the proverbial half-glass-full types, probably see the silver-lining of being around to have a chance at completing a centenary. But their more gloomy counterparts are unlikely to be jealous.

The first thing pessimists might do is question the premises of the study itself, and ask if it isn’t begging the question: If a person has managed to live till 85 and is still lucid enough to participate in rigorous scientific endeavour, they have probably enjoyed good health to begin with (another factor, according to the study, that leads to longevity), have purpose in life (“retirement is the biggest killer”) and have a community of friends and family. Is it a surprise, then, that such octogenarians can see the silver lining in a rainstorm?

It is far too easy to deride those with a bit of joie de vivre as, well, a little dumb. It is easy to cite the climate change apocalypse, the rise of bigotry, the increasing stupidity of popular culture and the sheer boredom of existence to say:

Who wants to be around for that long anyway. It’s easy to pretend that cynicism is the same as wisdom. This might, of course, be a case of sour grapes, since optimism is as difficult to manufacture as longevity. In the final analysis, the question is: Is it better to have a short, miserable life or a long and happy one?