The Impact of Optimism
In our series on stress, we concluded that stress has a detrimental impact on health. There is evidence that a certain character trait of people also has an impact - optimism seems to have a protective effect on some aspects of one's health! (To test your degree of optimism, and gain some insight into it's meaning, Click Here.)
Reference 1 presents results of a study that examines the impact of optimism and pessimism on a cohort of 1306 men who were screened and found healthy at the start of the study. The mean age of the population was 61 (range 40 to 90 years), and followup lasted 10 years. The degree of optimism/pessimism was determined by established methods involving three independent raters. Every 3-5 years, participants had a physical examination, that included serum cholesterol, blood-pressure and other measurements. The results were corrected for variances in age, BMI, smoking status, blood-pressure, cholesterol, family history of heart disease, education level, and drinking.
The results show that optimistic people have a significantly reduced risk of coronary heart disease and angina: a Risk Ratio of 0.45 (Margin of Error 0.29 to 0.65), compared to pessimistic people. Since pessimistic people are known to have negative emotions (anxiety, depression and anger) that increase the risk of heart disease, the study examines whether the difference is due to these emotions. When they exclude individuals with the highest degree of these emotions, they still obtain a decrease in heart disease and angina for optimists, although slightly smaller. Their conclusion: "...viewing the glass as half full, lowers the risk of CHD in older men".
Last Modification - January 22, 2005