In these chapters, the authors discussed the roles that optimism, neuroticism, and catastrophizing, play in longevity. Many believe that happiness is the secret to good health, but the researchers found that cheerful children were less likely to live into old age than soberer children. In addition, they made the conclusion that healthy people were happier but happy people weren’t necessarily healthier. This finding surprised me because just like many other people, I thought that happier people live longer because they are less stressed and have a more positive outlook on life. In reality, more cheerful people tend to be more carefree which can cause them to make riskier or dangerous choices. These choices can sometimes lead to early death. This finding did not surprise me because it is very similar to what the authors discovered about conscientious people. Those who are more conscientious make less risky decisions, and therefore they live longer. I learned that although happiness and optimism do not promote longevity directly, they do encourage health promoting behaviors. This concept makes sense to me. If I am more optimistic that a treatment will work, I will follow the treatment as prescribed. If I think a medicine isn’t going to do much for me, I probably won’t finish the dose.
I was intrigued by the finding that neurotic and conscientious individuals are more likely to live longer than non neurotic individuals. This was interesting to me because I always use the term neurotic in somewhat of a negative way. But it does make sense to me that someone who worries a lot would tend to take good better of themselves that someone who doesn’t worry. I scored high on both the neuroticism scale and conscientious scale!
The authors also found that catastrophizers died sooner, have superficial relationships, and have trouble facing their problems. Lucky for me, I did not score high on the catastrophizer scale.
One thing I found interesting was that the elderly lawyers did not mention the word “death” during their interviews. I believe that this finding reveals that people who live longer tend to have more successful, fulfilling careers. Additionally, they are quite content with their life and thus do not think about death often.