Optimism May Protect
Against Heart Disease
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People
who blame themselves for bad events and believe that things will
never change are more likely to develop heart disease than their
more optimistic peers, study findings suggest.
According to the report published in a recent issue of Psychosomatic
Medicine, people with a pessimistic explanatory style were more
likely to develop heart disease and die of a heart attack than
those who shrugged off bad news with a view that things were bound
to improve. A person's explanatory style refers to the way they
understand the causes of life's events.
The findings support the results of previous research linking
pessimism with higher levels of anger, anxiety and depression--emotions
that may be risk factors for heart disease.
``Because optimistic individuals actively engage in planning
and problem solving, they may experience fewer stressors, or they
may have more resources with which to deal with stress,'' Dr.
L. Kubzansky from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts,
and colleagues suggest.
They note that optimists tend to be more social, a quality that
has been linked with better health. These individuals may also
be more likely to adopt healthy behaviors such as exercising,
drinking in moderation and not smoking.
The results are based on information from more than 1,300 healthy,
white men aged 21 to 80 who were followed over an average of 10
years. Researchers ranked study volunteers on their level of optimism
using a standardized scale.
There were few differences in lifestyle behaviors between optimists
and pessimists, although pessimists were more likely to consume
more than two drinks of alcohol a day and to have a lower level
Overall, about 12% of the group developed heart disease over
a decade, of whom 19% died of a heart attack. Each increase in
the level of optimism on the scale was associated with a roughly
25% lower risk of developing chest pain and heart disease, the
study found. The most optimistic men also had a lower risk of
having a nonfatal heart attack and dying from heart disease compared
with the most pessimistic men.
``These results suggest that an optimistic explanatory style
may protect against risk of coronary heart disease in older men,''
the study concludes.
SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine 2001;63:910-916.
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