Scientists at Harvard University and the University of the Commonwealth of Virginia have conducted research on the impact of hope on physical and mental health. Some 13,000 people participated, with an average age of 66 years.
The authors of the study emphasize that there is a difference between the concepts of "optimism" and "hope". In the case of optimism a person is sure that a positive outcome is inevitable. And hope is, first of all, the preservation of motivation to achieve good results, even if a person is aware of the existence of unfavorable options for the development of the situation. Hope includes activity, awareness, and belief that achieving the desired result is possible. Hope is the power of will to change and understanding of how to achieve that change.
Researchers emphasize that it is often older people who lose hope because as they age they often face obstacles that may seem insurmountable. These include illness, financial problems, declining social activity, and others.
Participants in the study needed to assess the degree of agreement with statements such as "I feel that it is impossible for me to achieve the goals that I aspire to", "The future seems hopeless to me and I do not believe that the situation will improve", "It is useless to try to get what I really want", etc. Six answers ranging from "I completely disagree" to "I completely agree" were suggested.
Then the experts observed the participants for four years, assessing their physical and mental health on 26 parameters. It turned out that the risk of death from all causes during this period among participants with the highest "level of hope" was 16% lower than among elderly people with the lowest indicators. In addition, people who were able to maintain hope had fewer chronic illnesses, 12% less likely to experience cancer and 11% less likely to experience chronic pain. It was also found that participants with high levels of hope were 13% more physically active and 11% less likely to experience sleeping problems.
It was found that a high level of hope had a positive effect on all psychological well-being indicators: such people were less likely to experience stress and depression, and reported high levels of satisfaction with life. These participants also had more social contacts and were less likely to suffer from loneliness.
Specialists believe that it is useful for older people to watch motivational films and read books about people who overcome setbacks, to interact with like-minded people such as the religious community, etc. to maintain hope.
The experts who conducted the study emphasize that it is impossible to eliminate all the factors that threaten our hope. But it is very important to focus on the positive effects of maintaining hope - improving health, strengthening relationships. Therefore, it is important to strengthen willpower and perseverance, to look for ways to achieve goals and to be inspired by the examples of those who have done so.