I read the article “Look on the bright side and survive longer” with interest but was given pause by the fact that the nuns knew their autobiographies were “to be read by the congregation’s Mother Superior.” I think this may seriously undermine the conclusions drawn. Even without this problem, I think a basic distinction should have been addressed: Do these data show a longevity benefit from expressing positive emotions or from possessing positive emotions? To distinguish between these possibilities, a study would have to measure both “expressed happiness” and “actual happiness” somehow and look at the difference in outcome for people with various combinations. Ben Haller
Redwood City, Calif.
The article provided a good case for maintaining a positive attitude. But since the nuns’ autobiographies that were studied never contained any negative emotions, their neutral expressions were used as the lower baseline. I suspect that if it were possible to review the diaries of 180 evil monks who were forced to sleep on rocks for 60 years, researchers would find a similar increase in the longevity of those with negative attitudes, over those who remained “neutral.” Eugene Phillip
Great Falls, Va.
Regarding the longevity findings, I suspect that people who live longer have better overall physical-health profiles, and this might be what makes them feel more positive about life. Better physical health might have been, therefore, the determining factor in the longevity findings described. It would be interesting to study the health records of the nuns prior to the writing of the stories (including school-attendance records) and then analyze the health profile of each nun in respect to use of positive versus not-so-positive words. Charles Croll
Binghamton, N.Y