Optimism Translates to Good Health and Longer Lives

Jun 5, 2009 by

Optimism Translates to Good Health and Longer Lives

The connection between one’s mind, emotions and body is one which is still not very well understood by humans, but yet is definitely a very important one. Emotional trauma, stress, unhappiness, grief and other unresolved mental and emotional issues all have a great part to play in the disease process.

On the flip side, a positive attitude and bright outlook are, in essence, great tonics for health. Indeed, staying positive and being optimistic is arguably the most important thing you can ever do for your health, perhaps even better than all the healthiest foods in the world.

Optimists Enjoy Better Health and Longevity

by Reuben Chow

A large study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and presented at the American Psychosomatic Society’s annual meeting in Chicago has found that optimistic post-menopausal women were healthier and lived longer than their less upbeat counterparts.

Details and Findings of Study

The study team, which was led by Hilary Tindle, an assistant professor of medicine at the University, had looked at data from almost 100,000 women who were part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a study which follows women aged 50 and above and has been ongoing since 1994. On average, the women’s health status was tracked for a period of about 8 years.

The researchers defined “optimism” as the expectation that good things, as opposed to bad things, will take place. It was found that such women had 14% lower risk of dying from any cause and 30% lower risk of dying from heart disease during the study’s follow-up period, as compared to their pessimistic counterparts. In addition, the optimists were less likely to have hypertension and diabetes, as well as to smoke cigarettes.

The study team also looked at another trait – the tendency to be “cynically hostile” towards other people. Women with this trait were more likely to agree with statements like “I’ve often had to take orders from someone who didn’t know as much as I did” and “It’s safest to trust nobody.” Generally speaking, such a tendency indicates an overall mistrust of people.

Women in this group also suffered poorer health, having 16% higher risk of dying from any cause and 23% higher risk of dying from cancer during the follow-up period, as compared to women who were the least cynically hostile.

Significantly, even after the researchers accounted for influencing factors such as health status, lifestyle, income, education, physical activity, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, the same trends remained, with optimists enjoying better longevity than pessimists. The researchers are unclear if negative attitudes do indeed directly cause poor health, although their findings do imply an association of some sort.

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