People with a positive Outlook on life can less likely than pessimists to experience events such as heart attack or stroke, and they may live longer, suggests a recent review of existing research.
For the analysis, the researchers examined the data from 15 previous studies to the total number of participants 229 391 observed an average of about 14 years.
During this time the most optimistic people were 35% less than that of the less optimistic, the cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks or strokes, and 14% less likely to die for any other reason, the researchers report in JAMA Network Open.
“These results indicate that positive and negative thinking not only affects the quality of life, but also may be associated with human health,” said Dr. Alan Rozanski, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Medical school Icahn in new York city.
Optimists may have more healthy habits that help them live longer, said Rozanski. According to him, they can to eat better, to exercise more and smoke less, for example, than pessimists and better to cope with difficulties, helping them to be proactive about their health and to cope with the hard times without turning to unhealthy behavior.
Pessimism, by contrast, can affect the body, increasing inflammation and making people more prone to developing metabolic disorders, which can disrupt life, said Rozanski.
Although many studies over the last few decades associated stress and mood disorders with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, the results provide new evidence that people’s views on life can also influence heart health.
“Optimism has long been linked with improved school performance in such areas as sales, sports, political efforts and social relations, but it is also an important health problem that still has not been well studied,” said Rozanski.
Ten studies in this analysis focused on the relationship between optimism and such events as heart attacks and strokes, and nine studies consider deaths from all causes.
To assess whether participants are optimistic, many studies have used the so-called test on orientation to life in which people were asked to answer the six standard questions regarding their thoughts about the future.
Among other things, questions were focused on whether people expect the best in uncertain times, or people expect things go their way.
In their analysis, the investigators took into account risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and premature death, such as depression and immobility.
One limitation of the study is that in studies of smaller size were taken into account a wide variety of ages — from teenagers to the elderly that can affect the probability of heart attacks or strokes.
Also unclear is whether optimism is a trait that individuals can make to potentially improve their heart health, or is it something they are born that you cannot change, ” said Dr. Jeff Huffman, Director of the research Program of cardiac psychiatry at Massachusetts. General hospital in Boston, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.
“There is increasing evidence that a program of positive psychology that help people to develop the skills to experience positive emotions, can really run,” said Huffman via e-mail.
“These programs teach people to imagine a better future, to enjoy the positive moments when they happen, and use your strengths, when you accept the challenge,’ said Huffman. But we don’t yet know whether they will prevent heart disease”.