The research found optimism to be associated with a 50 percent lower risk of death from heart attack in men studied over 15 years. Higher optimism scores were associated with younger age, higher education, less often living alone, better health, and increased physical activity.
Studies suggest that a person’s optimism can predict their well-being and physical health, according to background information in the article. Being optimistic has been associated with better health outcomes in patients with ischemic heart disease (caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries), and with a lower risk for all-cause death and cardiovascular disease and death. The study authors focused on dispositional optimism, defined as having generally positive life engagement and expectancies for one’s future.
Erik J. Giltay, Ph.D., M.D., of GGZ Delfland, Institute of Mental Health, Deft, the Netherlands, and colleagues studied elderly men living in the Netherlands to determine optimism’s effect on cardiovascular death. The study included 545 men aged 64 to 84 years who did not have pre-existing cardiovascular disease or cancer. Optimism was assessed in 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000 in a questionnaire given to study participants, who were asked to rate their agreement with the following items: “I still expect much from life,” “I do not look forward to what lies ahead for me in the years to come,” “My days seem to be passing by slowly” and “I am still full of plans.” The men were given scores and divided into groups based on their levels of optimism.
(Article in the February 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals)