A recent study showed that a sunnier outlook on life is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and mortality. Evidence suggests optimism is protective and that pessimism seems to be detrimental, when it comes to the development of disease and future outcomes. What's a little less clear is what the mechanisms are, or how that protective effect occurs. Environment plays some role in the equation. Socioeconomic status was strongly tied to level of optimism: The women with the most-positive outlook on life tended to be wealthier, more educated, in better shape, and less likely to smoke or to be overweight. Socioeconomic status was the most related to attitude, but even after controlling for that, attitude was still related to health, so there's something else going on. Several factors are probably at play. Your psychology has a direct effect on physiology -- impacting blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormone levels, and immune function, all of which can contribute to disease and mortality. Higher levels of pessimism are linked to unfavorable changes in inflammatory markers and white blood cells. Optimistic types are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors such as eating well, exercising more, and smoking less. They're also more likely to have better social relationships. Finally, there's some evidence that optimistic women tend to adhere more strictly to medical advice and treatment plans.
From: "Friday, January 15, 2010 | DCPCA Health News Alert."
So, in addition to the semi structured data entry we ask patients to do on PHRs related to family history, we should add a section to determine whether or not the individual is generally an optimist or a pessimist?
Fascinating. One more way in which individual behaviors and social contagion influence personal + population-based health campaigns.