Optimism is a key ingredient that helps improve quality of life Human Essay

Optimism is a key ingredient that helps improve quality of life. Human life is governed not only

by the life-altering decisions but also by the daily choices an individual makes and an optimistic

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approach plays a major role in life’s fulfilment. As a student in my mid-20s entering into the

corporate world, I strongly feel that an optimistic outlook towards life’s ups and downs will help

achieve happiness and a good balance between work and life over the years.


considerable research has been carried out to examine the development of optimism across the

lifespan. One of the studies analyses over 1000 Mexican-origin couples between the ages 26-71

across 7 years by conducting a Life Orientation Test to measure optimism (Schwaba et al.,

2019), while another study analysed little less than 10000 Americans between the ages 51 to 97

across 4 years (Chopik et al., 2015) and another analysed a sample of over 20000 British and

German citizens on household and socio-economic levels respectively (Baird et al.

, 2010).

Studies have also been carried out to measure attributes like life satisfaction and self-esteem that

greatly influence optimism (Orth & Robins, 2014). With the help of the research, the paper

explores how optimism which is lowest in the 20s steadily increases in people’s 30s and 40s and

is at its peak between the ages 50 and 60 and then steadily drops afterwards, thus following an

inverted U shape on the optimism-lifespan graph. Yet, these results do not consider culture,

socio-economic background, societal influence which greatly affect an individual’s optimism.

Further research can help to improve a sense of optimism among youngsters itself, thus

improving future study results.


Introduction Positive psychology, a newly recognized domain of psychology, studies the meaning,

purpose and enhancement of life. Since the inception of psychology as a research subject, it has

focussed on finding everything that is wrong with the mental health of the body. Researchers

have categorized particular states of the human mind on the basis of their deviation from the so

called ‘normal’ state of function. Their focus of research has always been on understanding

various illnesses or abnormalities associated with the physical and emotional functioning of the

brain and the different techniques of treatment or medications through which these dysfunctions

can be cured. With the advent of this new field of positive psychology, researchers have turned

their focus to study how life could be made worth living.

The study of positive psychology does not completely eliminate the consideration of

abnormal psychology but actually works in parallel with it. It analyses the genuineness of

positive attributes like optimism and hope concerning the abnormalities and investigates the

source and development of these positive emotions. It also examines positive human feelings like

happiness, satisfaction, well-being, positive thoughts according to age, gender, region, genetics

and background. The pursuit of all these human virtues leads to achieving content in life.

Optimism is one such characteristic that helps human beings interpret the best out of any crucial

circumstances, thus reducing stress and increasing longevity.

Today, we live in a world of ever-growing competition, some people compete to grow

while others compete to survive. Amidst all this competition, we tend to forget the fact that the

reason the whole competition started was so that we could achieve eventual happiness and

satisfaction. But as human beings grow more intelligent and adaptive than before, the pace of

growth begins to accelerate and the competition never ends. This gave birth to the concept of


micro-happiness, where people feel happy and satisfied with the small, everyday moments and

occurrences that bring about positive change in their lives, which is strongly driven by optimism.

As a millennial studying in this competitive atmosphere, enjoying the little moments of

happiness at every successful step towards achieving my goals will ensure the well-being of

myself as well as the people associated with me. As my journey transitions into the professional

corporate world and as responsibilities grow, having a positive outlook towards different

situations and circumstances in life will ensure in achieving a more fulfilled life. While facing

life’s most critical turning points, optimism and faith in my work and efforts have helped me

reach where I am today. Hence I strongly believe that learning more about the different

subdomains of positive psychology like optimism, happiness, character strengths and virtues,

hope, etc. will help me lead my life with satisfaction. Experimental Studies Optimism, like any other human trait, varies according to age. This has been critically

inspected through extensive research. One of the studies evaluated a sample of 1169 Mexican

American couples between the ages 26-71, 4 times across 7 years with the help of a Life

Orientation Test to assess the age-graded development trajectory of optimism across adulthood

based on questions related to positive and negative life events (Schwaba et al., 2019). In order to

assess the mean-value path of optimism, a series of quadratic cohort-sequential latent growth

curve models were estimated so as to aggregate the data and measure it across the age group

factor only and create a best-fitting model after comparing it to three different categories

(Schwaba et al., 2019). It was observed that optimism increases from the age 26 and is at its peak

at the age of 55 and then plateaus at that age thus asserting that dispositional optimism is a


dynamic personality trait that increases with age depending on the experience of positive or

negative life events.

A similar study considered a sample of 9790 American respondents between the ages 51

and 97 with majority having good college education and health conditions for a period of 4 years

using the Life Orientation Test–Revised by asking a series of questions and expecting their

answers based on an agreement to disagree level scale (Chopik et al., 2015). After segregating

the participants into two waves based on health, the responses were measured across three effects

namely, linear, quadratic and cubic using regression models (Chopik et al., 2015). The findings

revealed that optimism progressively increased in adults from age 50 to 70 and then decreased

after the age of 70, showing a peak value at the age of 68 thus raising the question whether it is

the age or the changes in health due to ageing, the main cause of variations in optimism.

Just as optimism varies with age, its outcome like life satisfaction also alters with age.

One of the cross-sectional and longitudinal studies assesses life satisfaction with age using three

perspectives, classical, essentialist and socio-emotional on two different categories, a German

Socio-economic Panel and a British Household Panel with over 20000 participants from each

panel study (Baird et al., 2010). Both categories show little to no decline in life satisfaction from

adulthood through middle-age until the mid 70s and then decline steadily after due to increasing

health problems and loss of social support, but reflect different graphs, one with a steadily

increasing at first and then dropping while the other remaining constant throughout the middle

age and then dropping (Baird et al., 2010). Although the study assures a decline in life

satisfaction towards the end of life, it still has ambiguities regarding the changes from adulthood

to middle-age, thus giving more scope to asses parameters influencing age like background,

personality and experiences.


Another prime outcome of optimism is self-esteem which tends to change with increasing

age. Several longitudinal studies have been carried out, based on large and representative

samples from 1800 to 7000 participants, long study periods ranging from 12 to 29 years, multiple

waves of data and sophisticated modelling techniques like latent-trait state model (Orth &

Robins, 2014). Again the main observation was how self-esteem increased from adolescence to

middle adulthood, peaked between 50 and 60 years and then acceleratingly decreased, primarily

because of socio-economic factors, health and experiences (Orth & Robins, 2014). Most

importantly, the findings assert that higher self-esteem enables individuals better health,

relationship, work opportunities thus improving quality of life.

All kinds of studies reflect one key finding, a common trajectory. The typical review of

the positive personality quirks of optimism, life satisfaction and self-esteem increasing from

youth through adulthood, peaking at middle age and then declining towards the end shows an

inverted U-shape trajectory (Schwaba et al., 2019). The peak values have been fluctuating

between the ages of 55 and 70 (Schwaba et al., 2019). The main reasons for this gradual

inclination of positive values among the youth is the enthusiasm, courage to take up

responsibilities and the constant exposure to new experiences, which chiefly come from growing

age. Younger people look forward to encountering numerous life-changing experiences and

make efforts towards their possibility. Despite facing failures or negative experiences, the

enthusiasm arising from the youth, help them stay positive and push their limits. That is why the

studies that included negative experiences in the survey do not face issues of lower optimism

scales due to the participants feeling dejected after encountering negative emotions. Studies

reviewing the youth facing aftermaths of the global economic crises have showed positive results

owing to their faith in neo-liberalism and hard-work (Franceschelli & Keating, 2018). The young


generation has shown an optimistic attitude towards their future in spite of facing serious

difficulties and struggles with their belief to overcome obstacles by working diligently

(Franceschelli & Keating, 2018).

Despite achieving common ground, there are still discussions over what actually inflicts

optimism, whether it is age, health, personality or motivation through experience. Where most of

the findings reveal a drop in optimism after middle age, strong reasoning would be the

deteriorating health and motivation at old age. Findings have also confidently stated that,

although positive life events encourage optimism, negative life events show similar traits due to

the strong belief and motivation to change the negative circumstances into positive. Though

another important parameter to be considered is the categorization of experiences into an

additional event of neutral condition, where a participant could asses a neutral experience and

avoid inflation of either result. Also, although a large sample space helps in reducing the effect

of the personality criterion, much research needs to be carried out to eliminate the personality

criterion from the statistical models to achieve more accurate results to evaluate the effect of age.

Factors such as socio-economic background, societal pressure and region have also shown major

effects on the results. Further research can help to improve an understanding of optimism, thus

opening new avenues and improving future study results. Conclusion It can be effectively evaluated from the various studies and the findings that the

development in age plays a key role in varying the optimism of individuals. Current research

shows an inverted U shape trajectory on the optimism-lifespan graph, increasing from an

individual’s 20s, peaking between 50 and 60 and then rapidly declining after 70s. Along with

optimism, studies also analyse the outcomes of optimism like life satisfaction and self-esteem,


which also show similar trajectories. It must be noted that, although some studies followed the

U-shape trajectory, many others showed a different observation, initially declining and then

shooting upwards (U-shape), while some results showed high optimism among youngsters. I

strongly feel that culture, socio-economic background, societal influence will greatly affect an

individual’s attitude towards life and hence his beliefs and future prospects. The entire paper has

evaluated different studies with the age group of 20 and above. I believe that extensive research

must be carried out on children and teenagers to assess their take on optimism. If positive

attributes like optimism, self-esteem, hope and satisfaction are analysed among children and

teenagers and with efforts could be imbibed at a very young age, the current condition of lower

optimism levels in growing adults would increase significantly.

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