Category Archives: Positive Psychology

Gratitude can be effective in reducing anxiety about death

This study investigated whether a brief gratitude induction could reduce death anxiety. 83 Chinese older adults (mean age = 62.7, SD = 7.13) were randomly assigned into one of three conditions: gratitude, hassle, and neutral, in which they wrote different types of life events before responding to measures of death anxiety and affect. Participants in the gratitude induction reported lower death anxiety than the hassle and the neutral condition, whereas no difference was observed for the latter two conditions. There was no experimental effect on positive affect, and a significant effect on negative affect but which did not favor the gratitude condition. By reexamining life events with a thankful attitude, people may become less fearful of death due to a sense that life has been well-lived. Because gratitude can be induced using a very brief procedure, there are broad applications in clinical and health-care settings for the relief of death anxiety.

To see the research

Optimism associated with exceptional longevity

Optimism is a psychological attribute characterised as the general expectation that good things will happen, or the belief that the future will be favorable because one can control important outcomes. It is an attitude to life which can be significantly undermined by the challenges often experience in later life. Numerous studies have reported that more optimistic individuals are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases and die prematurely. The results of this new study go further and suggest that optimism is specifically related to 11 to 15% longer life spans, on average, and to greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity,” that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond. These relations were independent of socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration, and health behaviors (e.g., smoking, diet, and alcohol use).

These findings indicate that optimism is an important psychosocial resource for people to pay attention to and develop in later life. This is especially important as ageist stereotypes can begin to be internalised as people age.

Access to the original research here (behind a paywall)