Optimists have healthier hearts than pessimists, a new study of over 51,000 adults finds.
Professor Rosalba Hernandez, who led the study, said:
“Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts.
This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health.”
Optimists also had healthier body mass indexes, were more physically active and less likely to smoke.
The study’s results, published in the journal Health Behavior and Policy Review, came from a survey of over 51,000 ethnically diverse Americans aged between 45 and 84 (Hernandez et al., 2015).
They were followed over a total of 11 years, with data collected every 18 months.
Researchers found that the more optimistic people were, the greater their overall physical health.
The most optimistic people were 76% more likely to have health scores that were in the ideal range.
Once demographic factors like age, income and education were taken into account, the link between health and optimism became even stronger.
Then the most optimistic people were twice as likely to have health scores that were in the ideal range.
Optimism probably boosts people’s health because optimists use better coping strategies, such as being more likely to reach out for support.
Optimists likely also have lower levels of stress, which helps keep their hearts more healthy.
Professor Rosalba Hernandez said:
“At the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates.
This evidence, which is hypothesized to occur through a biobehavioral mechanism, suggests that prevention strategies that target modification of psychological well-being — e.g., optimism — may be a potential avenue for AHA to reach its goal of improving Americans’ cardiovascular health by 20 percent before 2020.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Atos