Finding the silver lining in difficult times can be tough, but the effort may improve your overall health, according to two new studies.
A pessimistic attitude, Finnish researchers report, is a strong independent risk factor for death from coronary heart disease.
The study, published in BMC Public Health, assessed the impact of attitude on heart-disease risk among 2,267 men and women ranging in age from 52 to 76. Participants responded to six statements — such as “If something can go wrong for me, it will” — by rating them on a scale of zero to four. Their health characteristics were also recorded.
Over the next 11 years, 121 participants died from coronary heart disease. After controlling for risk factors like smoking and diabetes, researchers noted that those in the highest one-quarter of scores on pessimism were more than twice as likely to die of heart disease than those in the lowest one-quarter.
A separate long-term study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, traced an association (but not causation) between a positive outlook and longevity.
The study of 70,021 women with an average age of 70 found that those with a more positive attitude about the future were less likely to die in the next several years.
Again, researchers assessed optimism levels with a questionnaire that included statements like “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.” They then tracked deaths among the participants over a six-year period.
After controlling for such factors as race, age, and education, researchers found that the women with the highest optimism scores were 29 percent less likely to die than those who were the least optimistic, showing the long-term benefits of positive thinking.