The most optimistic people are not the happiest, especially because they find it harder to accept bad news. This is the conclusion of an 18-year study carried out by British researchers. The key to happiness is more likely to be found in realistic people.
Seeing the glass half full does not mean more happiness. This is the conclusion of a long study carried out over 18 years on 1,600 volunteers by British researchers at the University of Bath and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the results of which were published in the SAGE Journal. Participants were required to fill in regular personal development questionnaires, undergo psychological tests to assess their level of stress, and were tested for their standard of living and self-confidence.
80% of the population is too optimistic
The results of the study showed that optimistic people tend to expect good news rather than more realistic expectations, which leads to further disappointment. Similar results were observed with pessimistic people. “Plans based on inaccurate beliefs make for poor decisions and are bound to deliver worse outcomes than would rational, realistic beliefs, leading to lower well-being for both optimists and pessimists. Particularly prone to this are decisions on employment, savings, and any choice involving risk and uncertainty,” says Dr. Chris Dawson, Professor at the University of Bath and lead author of the study.
The key lies with the realists, who are in a very small minority, as researchers estimate that 80% of the population should be classified as unrealistic optimists. “I think for many people, research that shows you don’t have to spend time thinking positively can be a relief. It shows that looking realistically to the future and making good evidence-based decisions without having to dive into constant positivity can bring a sense of well-being,” says Dawson.
Optimists more susceptible to COVID-19
Researchers also investigated whether a person’s optimism, pessimism, or realism influences the response to the coronavirus pandemic. They found that optimistic people tend to feel invincible and have less respect for social distancing guidelines. “Optimists feel less susceptible to the virus than others. They are less likely to take the appropriate precautions. On the other hand, pessimists may be tempted to never leave home or send their children to school. It also does not seem to be an appropriate strategy for welfare. Realists take risks that can be measured by scientific understanding of the disease,” says Professor David de Meza, co-author, and researcher at LSE.