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Optimists might be less likely to suffer stroke, study suggests

July 22, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • A glass half full might have real health benefits -- a new study links optimism to lower risk of suffering a stroke.
A glass half full might have real health benefits -- a new study links optimism… (Ballistik Coffee Boy via…)

One more reason to keep your glass half full: Optimists might be less likely to have a stroke.

In new research, the more people believe good things will happen, the less likely they were to suffer a stroke within two years.

Psychology researchers from the University of Michigan examined data from 6,044 stroke-free adults from the Health and Retirement Study. The adults answered how much they agreed with statements like “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best,” and two years later the researchers tracked which participants had suffered a stroke.

They found the more optimistic the person, the lower the stroke likelihood: On an optimism scale of 3 to 18, each point increase in optimism was associated with an approximate 10% decrease in the likelihood of having a stroke over the next two years.

Even when the researchers took into consideration a host of other variables related to outlook on life — anxiety, cynical hostility, depression, negative affect, neuroticism and pessimism — a smaller but still significant association between optimism and stroke remained. The results were published online Thursday in the journal Stroke.

Looking on the bright side of life has been linked to healthy outcomes in other research — in one study, optimists hospitalized with obstructive coronary artery disease were less likely to die within 15 years than those who were pessimistic about their recovery.

The authors of the most recent study suggest optimists might be more proactive about their health in general. They write in the discussion:

“People who have high optimism may engage in a healthy lifestyle that minimizes health risks and increases health and well-being. Perhaps, when people have a positive outlook on life, they undertake actions more likely to produce good outcomes.”

healthkey@tribune.com

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