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Worry, Be Happy?

Do you know any miserable people?

Those who are just so negative, so nasty, so unhopeful that you just can’t stand listening to them?  These are the folks who seem to live forever, while positive people with all good thoughts and intentions have trouble in their lives or pass away too young.

What gives here?  What makes those with the most horrible outlooks on life seem to dodge tragedy or premature death?

Many of us worry all the time!  We just can’t seem to see the “forest through the trees,” or find comfort in being comfortable.  So much psychology has been administered in an attempt to relieve that very issue!  Have psychologists and therapists been wrong?


A German study*, as reported in aarp.org has found that miserable, grumpy, negative people are living longer than positive thinkers!  What gives?

Well, researchers polled 40,000 people between the ages of 18 and 96 and asked them to “rate” how happy they believed they’d be in 5 years based on a scale of 1 to 10.  Following up with the participants 5 years later found that for each “point” they estimated would be better there was a 10% higher likelihood of death or disability in the following decade!  Their counterparts, or pessimistsfared far better.

This study suggests that those of us with less positive expectations about our futures may live life much more carefully, taking better care of ourselves to be safe and cautious in what we do, eat and how we act!  Believe it or not, this study also reported that those people who are wealthy and in good health were more likely to expect the worst from life.  Others in low-income brackets and poor health were more optimistic.  This, to me, suggests many things!

Perhaps poorer, less fortunate individuals hold more hope and belief that things can get better than those who have all they need and want.  After all, having all you need leaves little to work for and be hopeful for!. Coming from everything leaves not much to work for, or achieve! Those of us who are working to reach goals feel positive when we meet those goals and that builds our confidence and self-esteem!  However, achievement also involves stress and worry.  Perhaps, as positive as those working toward their goals are feeling very optimistic, those who do not need to stress about their own circumstances are pessimistic about all the “right” things that keep them going?  The rest of the participants worry about things and are doubtful about their future because it is not guaranteed.  What is wrong with this picture?

Perhaps letting go of worrying and negative thinking leaves us vulnerable to unhealthy living?  Conversely, having all we need and want from life proves to us that happiness cannot be bought, reached or all that its cut out to be so we worry even more?  This study found that people over 65 were more likely to feel pessimistic about their future happiness, and were more financially and medically secure than those people under 40 who were unrealistically optimistic.  Therefore, they were more likely to suffer health problems and even premature death.

This phenomenon appears to me to be a sign of the times.  Those people who can actually see what’s going on in the world today have very little to feel good about concerning the future.  The younger groups have no true point of reference, and falsely believe “all is well!” and “Oh well!”

Our world is changing.  When those people who can recall better days are no longer here, what will be left?  No one knows yet.  This is exactly the idea behind of my new book, “Socialcide™: How America is Loving Itself to Death!”  

If unhappiness is causing people to live longer and be in better health among people of age, while the younger generation is having a devil-may-care attitude and throwing any form of caution to the wind, and dying younger than their counterparts, what have we done?  We have missed the proverbial “ship” somehow, and must return to some certain basics of true living.

*Source: APA study on pessism.

Read more posts by Leo Battenhausen, MSW, addiction and mental health counselor.  Leo is a blogger for JenningsWire.