A recent meta-analysis study examined evidence of the increased health benefits of optimism versus pessimism.
In recent years, researchers have amassed much evidence of a relationship between stress and negative health consequences.
To date, countless studies have reported disconcerting findings that associate high levels of stress with such conditions as heart disease, diabetes, and even with increased mortality rates.
However, comparably less attention has been given to studying the health benefits of optimism. Some studies have already reported a potential positive association between the two, but optimism and pessimism are rarely (if ever) assessed in medical practice.
In order to evaluate the evidence to date, a group of researchers from the United States designed a meta-analysis and systematic review study. The researchers collected 15 studies, which were comprised of almost 230,000 participants. Of these studies, 10 reported data on cardiovascular events, while nine studies reported on all-cause mortality.
As reported in JAMA Network Open, the researchers found a significant correlation between optimism and a reduced risk of cardiovascular incidents, as well as all-cause mortality. The health benefits of optimism held when examining other factors, such as sex, depression, educational level, or physical exercise.
The researchers suggest that there may be different ways by which optimism can create such effects in one’s physical health. One way may be the behavioral differences between optimistic and pessimistic people. Different studies have shown better dietary choices and physical exercise levels in optimistic people, as compared to pessimistic. Optimism has also been related to many physiological factors, such as reduced inflammation and improved metabolic functioning.
Thus, the researchers suggest, the topic warrants more extensive studies examining the various processes responsible for the health benefits optimism. Moreover, it is suggested that examining interventions focusing on increasing optimism and reducing pessimism may be beneficial endeavors for future researchers and practitioners.
Written by Maor Bernshtein
Reference: Rozanski, A., Bavishi, C., Kubzansky, L. D., & Cohen, R. (2019). Association of Optimism With Cardiovascular Events and All-Cause Mortality. JAMA Network Open, 2(9). doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.12200
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