“It’s true! Optimists do live longer,” is the slightly misleading headline from the Mail Online.
The study it reports on actually looked at the effects of optimism on physical and emotional health in 369 people recovering from a heart attack or unstable angina (angina that does not respond to medication), rather than overall lifespan.
The participants were assessed for their level of optimism, depressive symptoms and physical health. They had a repeat assessment after 12 months.
The study also looked at whether participants were likely to have a major cardiac event (such as a heart attack or stroke) in the next 46 months.
Optimism alone did not have an effect on whether people had another major cardiac event, but a significant effect was seen when they looked at levels of optimism and symptoms of depression.
People who were both optimistic and free of depression had half the risk of having a major cardiac event compared to people with low optimism and some symptoms of depression.
This effect could be due to issues of compliance. People who feel they have something to live for are probably more likely to carry out recommended lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, as was seen in this study.
The researchers now hope to find ways to improve the optimism of people at risk of heart attacks.
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