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Feb. 27, 2013 — Older people who have low expectations for a satisfying future may be more likely to live longer, healthier lives than those who see brighter days ahead, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
Because a darker outlook on the future is often more realistic, older adults' predictions of their future satisfaction may be more accurate, according to the study. In contrast, the youngest group had the sunniest outlook while the middle-aged adults made the most accurate predictions, but became more pessimistic over time.
"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."
Lang and colleagues hypothesized that people who were gloomy about their future may be more careful about their actions than people who anticipated a rosy future.
"Perceiving a dark future may foster positive evaluations of the actual self and may contribute to taking improved precautions," authors wrote.
"We found that from early to late adulthood, individuals adapt their anticipations of future life satisfaction from optimistic, to accurate to pessimistic," the authors concluded. "Pessimistic accuracy appears to be linked with preserved functional health and better chances to survive."