Women who are optimistic have a lower risk of heart disease and death, an American study shows.
The latest study by US investigators mirrors the findings of earlier work by a Dutch team showing optimism reduces heart risk in men. The research on nearly 100,000 women, published in the journal Circulation, found pessimists had higher blood pressure and cholesterol. Even taking these risk factors into account, attitude alone altered risks.
Optimistic women had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause after more than eight years of follow-up. In comparison, cynical women who harboured hostile thoughts about others or were generally mistrusting of others were 16% more likely to die over the same time-scale. One possibility is that optimists are better at coping with adversity, and might, for example take better care of themselves when they do fall ill.
In the study, the optimistic women exercised more and were leaner than pessimistic peers.
Lead researcher Dr Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said: "The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high degrees of negativity are hazardous to health." A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said: "We know that hostile emotions can release certain chemicals in the body which may increase the risk of heart disease, but we don't fully understand how and why."