✪✪✪ Essay On Optimism And Cardiovascular Health
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Can optimism improve physical health?
Through employment of specific coping strategies, optimism exerts an indirect influence also on the quality of life. There is evidence that optimistic people present a higher quality of life compared to those with low levels of optimism or even pessimists. Optimism may significantly influence mental and physical well-being by the promotion of a healthy lifestyle as well as by adaptive behaviours and cognitive responses, associated with greater flexibility, problem-solving capacity and a more efficient elaboration of negative information. Optimistic individuals are positive about events in daily life. Optimistic subjects tend to have more frequently protective attitudes, are more resilient to stress and are inclined to use more appropriate coping strategies.
Optimists believe that positive events are more stable and frequent than negative ones. They think that they can avoid problems in daily life and prevent them from happening, and therefore they cope with stressful situations more successfully than pessimists [ 3 , 4 ]. The optimistic bias has been defined as the result of the joint efforts of two mechanisms. This overiew is an attempt to explore optimism concept and its relations with mental health, physical health, coping, quality of life and adaptation of purpose, health lifestyle and risk perception. Positive and negative expectations regarding the future are important for understanding the vulnerability to mental disorders, in particular mood disorders.
Recent studies have found an inverse correlation between optimism and depressive symptoms [ 7 , 8 ], and also between optimism and suicidal ideation [ 9 ]. As such, optimism seems to have an important moderating role in the association between feelings of loss of hope and suicidal ideation [ 10 ]. In relation to this, Van der Velden et al. The results of this research show that compared to optimists, pessimists nurtured little hope for the future and were more at risk for depressive and anxiety disorders, with subsequent impairment of social functioning and quality of life. The role of optimism in the quality of life has also been investigated in depressive disorders emerging in patients suffering from somatic pathologies, such as acute coronary syndrome, for instance in which a significant inverse correlation was found between dispositional optimism and level of satisfaction in life on one hand and depressive symptoms emerging after the cardiovascular event on the other hand [ 12 ].
Giltay et al. Evidence regarding this subject has emerged also from studies carried out on victims of catastrophic events such as natural disasters. In fact, it has been observed that even one single session of cognitive-behavioural therapy, targeted at enhancing the sense of control and coping with incapacitating disturbances that ensue after a natural disaster, may contribute to improving the well-being of the individual [ 14 ]. Despite the small number of studies published on this matter, the relation between physical health and optimism is as important as that between optimism and mental health described above.
Many studies have found that optimism is correlated with better physical well-being compared to pessimism. Moreover, in contrast with optimism, pessimism is correlated with excessive somatic complaints [ 15 ]. In a study on a population of elderly subjects of both sexes, aged between years, Giltay et al. These data have been confirmed in a subsequent longitudinal study on a population of males aged between 64 - 84 years in which an inverse correlation was reported between dispositional optimism and the risk of cardiovascular death [ 13 ]. Matthews et al. In reference to oncological patients, Schulz et al. Among patients with neck or head cancer, optimists manifested significantly greater survival a year after diagnosis when compared to pessimists [ 19 ].
In a recent study, Ironson et al. Although optimism is commonly believed to be a protective factor with regard to well-being and physical and psychical health [ 1 ] some research has suggested that this is not always the case. Schofield et al. Also studies concerning the immune system turned out contrasting results. Tomakowsky et al. The results of their research indicated that both types of optimism were associated with an improvement of the symptomatology of AIDS.
Nevertheless, in the long term, high levels of optimism, in particular, of the attributional type, were associated with a significant impairment of the immune defence system. Milam et al. Segerstrom [ 24 , 25 ] examined two hypotheses that may explain these results: the disappointment hypothesis, according to which persistent and uncontrollable stressors reduce the positive expectations that are typical of optimists and thus consequently control over the stress factors, leading to decrease in immune defence. The other is the engagement hypothesis theorizing that more optimistic individuals are more easily drawn to trying to resolve a problem while pessimists tend to let the matter drop, thus ending up more exposed to stress.
As such, in cases of severe illnesses like AIDS, when associated with the elevated levels of cortisol and adrenalin that typically present when faced with stress, optimism may actually determine a decrease in the defence mechanisms of the immune system. Coping refers to those mechanisms and mental processes enacted by the individual as an adaptive response to reduce the stress deriving from a threatening situation, as defined by Lazarus and Opton [ 26 ].
From the early studies of Scheier et al. Despite a certain amount of dissent, other researchers confirmed the first results. Dispositional optimism was found to be positively correlated with those coping strategies ideated to eliminate, reduce or manage the stressors and negatively correlated with those employed to ignore, avoid or distance oneself from stressors and emotions [ 28 ]. Moreover, the choice of the coping strategy shows to be constant over the course of time [ 29 ].
Low levels of dispositional optimism were observed in students who were particularly vulnerable to the normal difficulties encountered in scholastic environments and who developed intolerance or even hostility towards the school [ 30 ]. Also in the work environment a positive association was observed between optimism and performance, mediated by the positive influence that optimism has on coping strategies [ 31 ]. Many studies have confirmed that optimists tend to use coping strategies that focalize on the problem more frequently compared to pessimists.
When these strategies cannot be enacted, optimists resort to adaptive strategies that focalize on the emotions, for example, acceptance, humour and positive re-assessment of the situation [ 27 , 32 - 34 ]. In a sample of women with breast cancer Schou et al. In contrast, the pessimistic women reacted with sentiments of impotence and loss of hope which significantly worsened their quality of life.
Quality of life refers to life conditions of an individual health, wealth, social conditions and satisfaction of personal desires, measured on a scale of personal values [ 36 ]. As such, we are dealing with a multidimensional construct that integrates objective and subjective indicators, a wide range of varying contexts of life and individual values. Wrosch and Scheier [ 34 ] evidenced two variables capable of influencing quality of life: optimism and adaptation of purpose. Both in fact exert a fundamental role in adaptive management of critical circumstances in life and of goals to reach. There is evidence that optimistic people present a higher quality of life compared to those with low levels of optimism or even pessimists [ 37 , 38 ]. It has been demonstrated that in the presence of severe pathological conditions, optimistic patients adapt better to stressful situations compared to pessimists, with positive repercussions on their quality of life.
For example, in a sample of patients who underwent an aortic-coronary bypass, optimism was significantly and positively associated with quality of life in the six months following the operation [ 39 ]. The optimistic patients in fact presented a more rapid clinical improvement during the period of hospitalization and a quicker return to daily routine after discharge from hospital. Analogous results are reported in samples of patients with other pathologies. In patients affected with epilepsy, Pais-Ribeiro et al.
Kung et al. Lastly, in women with breast cancer, optimism was associated with better quality of life in terms of emotional, functional and socio-familial well-being [ 45 ]. It is possible to avoid or reduce the negative psychological and physical repercussions consequent to the non-achievement of a goal for example, becoming ill despite constant efforts to stay healthy through a process of adaptive self-regulation targeted at disengaging oneself from an unrealizable goal and concentrating efforts instead on more attainable objectives.
In fact this form of release from a commitment is adaptive because it averts the patient from the emotionally negative consequences of repeated failures, while re-directing the objectives gives back meaning and a sense of purpose to life. Individuals who succeed in this present better quality of life and better physical health compared to those who have greater difficulty in renouncing their unattainable goals.
Moreover, they are more optimistic towards their future because they are able to manage difficulties more efficiently as well as to identify new aims in life. One way in which optimism may significantly influence physical well-being is through promotion of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it is thought that optimism facilitates adaptive behaviours and cognitive responses that consent negative information to be elaborated more efficiently and that are associated with greater flexibility and problem-solving capacity [ 3 ].
These coping strategies are in turn predictive of behaviours targeted at avoiding, and if necessary facing positively, health problems [ 46 , 47 ]. Several studies have analysed the correlations between optimism and healthy behaviours. In particular Steptoe et al. Numerous researches have investigated the relation between risk perception and unrealistic optimism that leads to involvement in risky situations. Unrealistically optimistic subjects tend to perceive themselves as being less at risk compared to pessimists, as far as questions of health are concerned, and furthermore believe themselves more capable of preventing such problems from happening [ 4 ].
For example, comparing groups of students with a marked disposition towards risky behaviour and students having a low tendency to get involved in such behaviour, Todesco and Hillman [ 50 ] found that both groups assessed the possibility of damaging consequences of a given situation, but the first group was at variance for the fact that these students perceived themselves as invulnerable. Smokers represent an important field in the study of the relation between unrealistic optimism and perception of risk for the health.
These subjects consider themselves to be less at risk than others for developing illnesses associated with smoking which has been interpreted as a form of irrationality or rather, as an expression of optimistic bias. McKenna et al. More recent studies have indicated that smokers have a significantly lower perception of risk in comparison with non-smokers [ 52 ]. By way of confirmation of these data, it was observed that smokers with unrealistic optimism that is, those who perceived their own risk as lower than the effective risk tended to believe that smoking only for a few years they would not incur any risk of lung cancer and that developing lung cancer depends solely on genetic predisposition [ 53 ].
Furthermore, unrealistic optimists barely considered the hypothesis of giving up smoking in order to reduce the risk of cancer. Optimism is a tendency to expect good things in the future. From the literature here reviewed, it is apparent that optimism is a mental attitude that heavily influences physical and mental health, as well as coping with everyday social and working life. Through an adaptive management of personal goals and development and by using active coping tactics, optimists are significantly more successful than pessimists in aversive events and when important life-goals are impaired.
Clinics should develop an application form of optimism concept in Applied Psychology and in Psychotherapy. As a matter of fact, application form of optimism concept should be integrated in treatments and prevention programs respectively in mental and physical health, to improve well-being. The authors conceived the manuscript and drafted it. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.
Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. Published online May Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Optimism, coping, and health: assessment and implications of generalized outcome expectancies. Health Psychol. Peterson C, Seligman ME. Explanatory style and illness. J Pers. In: Chang EC, editor.
Optimism and pessimism. Washington: American Psychological Association; Optimistic explanatory style and the perception of health problems. J Clin Psychol. Weinstein ND. A sunny outlook may help people recover after a cardiac procedure, but can it also reduce the risk of developing one of the major risks for cardiovascular disease — hypertension? Research conducted in Finland suggests it can. Scientists evaluated middle-aged men who had normal blood pressures when the study began. Each volunteer's mental outlook was checked with questions about his expectations for the future, and each was evaluated for cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse, and a family history of hypertension.
Over a four-year period, highly pessimistic men were three times more likely to develop hypertension than cheerier souls, even after other risk factors were taken into account. An American study of 2, men and women who were 65 and older also found that optimism is good for blood pressure. Researchers used a four-item positive-emotion summary scale to evaluate each participant during a home visit. They also measured blood pressure, height, and weight and collected information about age, marital status, alcohol use, diabetes, and medication. Even after taking these other factors into account, people with positive emotions had lower blood pressures than those with a negative outlook.
On average, the people with the most positive emotions had the lowest blood pressures. A study explored the link between emotions and viral infections of the respiratory tract. Scientists evaluated the personality style of healthy volunteers, then gave each a common respiratory virus. Subjects who displayed a positive personality style were less likely to develop viral symptoms than their less positive peers. High blood pressure is an important cause of coronary artery disease. If optimism can reduce the risk of hypertension, can it also protect against developing coronary artery disease itself?
To find out, scientists from Harvard and Boston University evaluated 1, men with an average age of Each volunteer was evaluated for an optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style as well as for blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, and family history of heart disease. None of the men had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease when the study began. Over the next 10 years, the most pessimistic men were more than twice as likely to develop heart disease than the most optimistic men, even after taking other risk factors into account. Optimism appears to protect the heart and circulation — and it's heartening to learn that it can have similar benefits for overall health.
A large, short-term study evaluated the link between optimism and overall health in 2, older adults. Over two years, people who had a positive outlook were much more likely to stay healthy and enjoy independent living than their less cheerful peers. Staying well for two years is one thing, remaining healthy for the long haul another. But for patients who were evaluated for optimism as part of a comprehensive medical evaluation between and , the benefits of a positive outlook were desirable indeed.
Over a year period, optimism was linked to a better outcome on eight measures of physical and mental function and health. Experienced clinicians know that humor is good medicine. Now researchers in Tennessee tell us it may also provide a bit of a workout. That means a to minute belly laugh might burn anywhere from 10 to 40 calories. It's a lot of laughing for a few calories, but optimists will be tickled by the result. It's obvious that healthy people live longer than sick people. If optimism actually improves health, it should also boost longevity — and according to two studies from the U. The first American study evaluated people in the early s, performing a psychological test for optimism""pessimism as well as a complete medical evaluation.
A newer U. During the next 40 years, of the people died from a variety of causes, with cancer being the most common. The two Dutch studies reported similar results. In one, researchers tracked men who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer when they were evaluated for dispositional optimism in The other study from Holland evaluated men and women between the ages of 65 and Taken together, these studies argue persuasively that optimism is good for health. But why? What puts the silver in the silver lining? Skeptics or pessimists might suggest that the effect is more apparent than real.
People who are healthy are likely to have a brighter outlook than people who are ill, so perhaps optimism is actually the result of good health instead of the other way around. To counter this argument, researchers can adjust their results for pre-existing medical conditions, including physical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, and mental problems such as depression.
The studies that made these adjustments found that medical conditions did not tarnish the benefits of a bright outlook on life. Moreover, by tracking people for 15, 30, and 40 years, scientists can minimize the potential bias of pre-existing conditions. Another explanation is behavioral. It is possible that optimists enjoy better health and longer lives than pessimists because they lead healthier lifestyles, build stronger social support networks, and get better medical care. Indeed, some studies report that optimists are more likely to exercise, less likely to smoke, more likely to live with a spouse, and more likely to follow medical advice than pessimists.
But optimism is not generally associated with a better diet or a leaner physique, and even when results are adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors, a beneficial effect of optimism persists. In addition to behavioral advantages, optimism may have biological benefits that improve health. A study of 2, healthy men and women found that a positive outlook on life was linked to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, even after taking age, employment, income, ethnicity, obesity, smoking, and depression into account. In women, but not men, a sunny disposition was also associated with lower levels of two markers of inflammation C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 , which predict the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Other possible benefits include reduced levels of adrenaline, improved immune function, and less active clotting systems. Finally, heredity may explain some of the link. It is possible that genes predispose some people to optimism, and that the same genes exert a direct effect on health and longevity. More study is needed to clarify the link between optimism and good health. It's likely that multiple mechanisms are involved. Personality is complex, and doctors don't know if optimism is hard-wired into an individual or if a sunny disposition can be nurtured in some way. It's doubtful that McLandburgh Wilson was pondering such weighty questions when he explained optimism in Today's doctors don't think much of doughnuts, but they are accumulating evidence that optimism is good for health.
As you await the results of new research, do your best to seek silver linings, if not doughnuts. As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.Airplane Accomplishments not just your heart that's protected by a positive outlook. In fact, the more positive the person, the greater the protection from heart attacks, stroke and any cause of death, said Rozanski, who is also the chief academic officer for Essay On Optimism And Cardiovascular Health department of cardiology Essay On Optimism And Cardiovascular Health Mount Sinai Essay On Optimism And Cardiovascular Health. Poverty, homelessness, and social stigma make Essay On Optimism And Cardiovascular Health more deadly. Why would that be true? J Clin Essay On Optimism And Cardiovascular Health.