"Unexpectedly, we also found that stable and good health and income were associated with expecting a greater decline compared with those in poor health or with low incomes," Lang said. "Moreover, we found that higher income was related to a greater risk of disability."
The researchers measured the respondents' current and future life satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10 and determined accuracy in predicting life satisfaction by measuring the difference between anticipated life satisfaction reported in 1993 and actual life satisfaction reported in 1998. They analyzed the data to determine age differences in estimated life satisfaction; accuracy in predicting life satisfaction; age, gender and income differences in the accuracy of predicting life satisfaction; and rates of disability and death reported between 1999 and 2010. Other factors, such as illness, medical treatment or personal losses, may have driven health outcomes, the study said.
The findings do not contradict theories that unrealistic optimism about the future can sometimes help people feel better when they are facing inevitable negative outcomes, such as terminal disease, according to the authors. "We argue, though, that the outcomes of optimistic, accurate or pessimistic forecasts may depend on age and available resources," Lang said. "These findings shed new light on how our perspectives can either help or hinder us in taking actions that can help improve our chances of a long healthy life."
|Contact: Lisa Bowen|
American Psychological Association