Middle aged women who are optimistic are less likely to develop heart disease or die from any cause compared to pessimistic women of the same age, latest study results suggest.
In the largest study to prospectively examine the health effects of optimism and cynical hostility in post-menopausal women, US researchers studied more than 97,000 women, aged 50 to 79.
After more than eight years of follow-up, the researchers found that optimistic women had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease, and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause than pessimistic women.
Additionally, the study found that women with a high degree of cynical hostility – harbouring hostile thoughts towards others or having a general mistrust of people – were 16% more likely to die than women with a low degree of cynical hostility.
Optimistic women were less likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depressive symptoms or a high BMI, the researchers said.
‘The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high degrees of negativity are hazardous to health,’ said lead study author Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
‘This study is a very reasonable stepping stone to future research in this area, both on potential mechanisms of how attitudes may affect health, and for randomised controlled trials to examine if attitudes can be changed to improve health,’ she added in the journal Circulation.