Mar 10, 2009

- Optimism Is the Key to a Long and Healthy Life

What is your attitude towards life? Is it an appreciative one or demanding? A person’s predominant attitude can predict the risk of cancer-related death, heart disease and early death, a new study confirms previous findings that linked optimism to longer life. 

For the study led by Hilary Tindle, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, the researchers surveyed the personality traits of middle-age women in 1994 as part of the Women's Health Initiative study run by the National Institutes of Health. The study tracked more than 100,000 females over the age of 50 and ranked them in terms of their optimism.

Women who were optimistic – those who were grateful for what they had and had a positive attitude towards the future, expecting good rather than bad things to happen – were 14 percent less likely to die from any cause than pessimists. After a follow-up period of eight years, optimists were 30 percent less likely to die from heart disease than pessimists.
Furthermore, those who saw life in brightful colors were also less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes or smoke cigarettes.

Those who tended to trust others instead of being hostile were also less likely to die from cancer. Those who scored high in the hostile scales had a higher general death rate and a 23 percent greater risk of dying from a cancer-related condition by the end of the study.

A possible explanation might be the fact that optimistic people have the ability to manage their mental stress better and they are also more likely to trust their doctor and to follow his advice for a healthy life. At the same time, healthy behaviors may be associated with a positive outlook on life, while negative feelings may trigger unhealthy habits.
More studies are needed to see if a change in attitude is associated with positive heath effects.

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