Optimism: Good for your heart?

Research we're watching

Published: December, 2019

People with a positive outlook on life seem to be less likely to experience serious heart-related problems, according to a review published Sept. 27 by JAMA Network Open.

The study pooled findings from 15 studies involving a total of more than 220,000 people. After a follow-up period lasting an average of nearly 14 years, researchers found that optimism was associated with a 35% lower risk of angina, heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes. That benefit held even when they considered studies that took into account depression, physical activity, and other possible confounding factors.

Optimistic people may be more likely to follow healthy habits; other studies suggest a link between greater optimism and better diet quality and being more likely to sustain an exercise routine. But can pessimistic people actually change their ways? Maybe. Therapy and other psychological techniques that encourage people to imagine their best possible selves (even when they have health problems) appear to help, according to the authors.

Image: FG Trade/Getty Images

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