Doctor says positive outlook correlated to longer lifespan

By Wu Liang-yi and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Sep 07, 2019 - Page 4

People with a positive outlook live an average of 7.5 years longer than their peers who are morose and unwilling to learn new things, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital Department of Rehabilitation doctor Chen Chih-kuang (陳智光) said on Tuesday, citing a study published by Yale University that observed 660 people aged 50 or older for 23 years.

Longevity is not based on health or wealth, but on a person’s take on life and the world, Chen said.

Chen cited a separate study from Harvard University that showed that 30 percent of 70,000 participants “maintained optimistic attitudes” and were less affected by cancer, heart attacks, strokes, respiratory tract diseases and other issues that could lead to death than those who were “gloomy and dour.”

Telomeres are a region of repetitive nucleotides at each end of chromosomes that ensure the complete replication of chromosomes and are linked to aging and cancer, he said.

They get shorter after every replication and replication ceases once the telomere is a certain length, he said.

The studies show that pressure, severe depression and other negative psychological states increase the rate of telomere shortening, he said.

The Huangdi Neijing (黃帝內經), a fundamental text in Chinese medicine, includes a section titled: “Anger affects the liver; joy the heart; thought the spleen; worry the lungs and fear the kidney,” Chen said, adding that traditional Chinese medicine teaches that emotional stress is the source of many physical ailments and leads to premature aging.

To have better health, people must maintain an equilibrium of emotions, he said.

Maintaining a sanguine outlook helps deter the effects of aging, Chen said.

The phrase: “You are old when you feel it” is not mere philosophy, but is backed up by medical research, he added.