Need a reason to look on the bright side? In a recent study of women 50 years and older, the participants were asked to answer a standard questionnaire that measured optimistic tendencies based on responses to statements like “In uncertain times, I expect the worst.” Those scoring highest in optimism on this scale were more likely to be alive eight years later, while those with the lowest, most pessimistic scores were more likely to have died from any cause, including heart disease. Apparently pessimism may be as bad as having high blood pressure, a well-known heart risk factor when it comes to cardiovascular health. That’s not such a surprise, says the lead researcher, considering that optimistic people – more hopeful overall – probably have a larger support network, watch what they eat, exercise more and see the doctor regularly. They may cope better with stress, a risk factor that has been associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and early death in previous studies.
The study reveals interesting findings. Now the resarch team plans to replicate them and find out why this association is happening. And study whether a change in attitude can lower the risk of heart problems.
So what do you think – are you generally optimistic or pessimistic? And, if your attitude is more often negative, what can you do to modify it?