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It’s science: Running late could mean you end up living a longer, healthier life

Something to remember when your toddler wants to zip up his own coat.

It’s science: Running late could mean you end up living a longer, healthier life

In this world, there are simply some topics people have irreconcilable beliefs about. Whether it's acceptable to be chronically late seems to be among them. As someone on Team You're Late If You Aren't Early, I'll be honest: I've always struggled to understand why some of my friends never arrive anywhere on time.


But, it turns out that chronically late people aren't (only) bad at time management. They also tend to be eternal optimists—and, according to Harvard researchers, optimists live longer and healthier lives. Therefore, it's the conclusion of some researchers that people who run late are actually doing something right when it comes to their health.

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"Many late people tend to be both optimistic and unrealistic and this affects their perception of time," says Diana DeLonzor in her book, Never Be Late Again. "They really believe they can go for a run, pick up their clothes at the dry cleaners, buy groceries and drop off the kids at school in an hour."

So while I may spend my time accounting for the possibility of every red light and feeling impatient, the people who are running late are often operating with a sense of calm. And according to a paper from Harvard Medical School, that's quite possibly adding years to their lives. In fact, even holding for other predictors of health, research has found that "an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years."

Beyond optimism, other research has shown that people who pull up to the party 15 minutes late may actually have a different grasp on how the clock ticks: When asked to estimate how much time had passed when it had been one minute, Type A people said 58 seconds on average while Type B people added a full 17 seconds to the clock.

"So if you have an 18-second gap, that difference can add up over time," researcher Jeffrey Conte from San Diego State University told the Wall Street Journal in 2015.

That is perhaps never better news than when you become a parent and your ability to control time slips away as toddler demands to "do it myself" and the logistics of getting out the door with a diaper bag, car seat and 30 snack options slow you down—at least for me.

As I'm trying to reconcile that with my desire to still be on time, it's nice to keep this in mind: Running late every now and then may mean getting to stick around longer.

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