The old joke goes: an optimist fell off the top of a 75-story building. Mid-way down, he said, “well, so far so good!” Joking aside, there is an interesting new study on optimism, heart health and longevity.
Alan Rozanski, MD, cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine, Chirag Bavishi, MD, MPH, practicing cardiologist at Rhode Island Hospital and faculty member at the Brown University School of Medicine, and Laura D. Kubzansky, PhD at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard, et al, led a meta-analysis of studies that connected optimism with positive health. The study focused on optimism and cardio risks. The underlying studies included over 229,000 participants who had been observed for an average of 13.8 years.
A rather impressive set of statistical analyses was performed to isolate participants’ level of optimism or pessimism as a discrete factor from all other variables. The results were, as lead author Rozanski noted, “fascinating”.
From the study:
The findings suggest that a mindset of optimism is associated with lower cardiovascular risk and promotion of optimism and reduction in pessimism many be important for preventive health.
We saw that there was about a 35 percent reduced risk of having a heart attack, stroke of cardiac death in people who rated themselves positively as opposed to negatively. That’s a very substantial effect, a medical effect, similar to what we see with other risk factors, even things such as hypertension.
Note that the effect is associated with better health regardless of other factors like physical activity, depression or socioeconomic status.
The test used to determine if one is more optimistic or pessimistic is the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R). It is very brief; you can take it yourself in two minutes or less. Note: Don’t read ahead when taking the test! You’ll screw it up. Link here.
If you want to learn more about the underlying research, here’s a link to the Rozanski study.
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