Happy-go-lucky optimists may have better heart health
Mindset seems to influence health outcomes and if someone’s optimistic, they’re more likely to have a healthy heart.
Are you one to look on the bright side of life? Or do you tend more towards doom and gloom? Medical researchers have a longstanding interest in mindset, and not just as it relates to mental health. Mood and mindset are already known to be predictors of success at work, school, relationships and politics.
For example, if you’re an optimist, you tend to do better. It’s also been suggested that mindset plays a role in physical health, and that makes sense. After all, if you’re a happy and outgoing person who forges friendships easily, you’re probably more likely to undertake team sports and other health-promoting activities.
This study aimed to narrow down the effect optimism has on your heart health and risk of early death. In particular, the researchers wanted to know whether the health benefits of optimism were something more than simply being free of depression and its negative effects.
To do this, they looked at 15 studies on the topic. On average, these studies followed people for 14 years, collecting information about the mindset of the people involved and their experiences of cardiac events (like heart attack or stroke) and time of death. More than 200,000 people were looked at in these studies.
The researchers found that compared with the most pessimistic people, those who were most optimistic had a 35 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular events. That was a similar reduction in risk to other heart disease risk factors, like diet and exercise, the authors said. Optimists also had a 14 per cent lower risk of early death.
What’s more, the findings remained even after accounting for things like depression and exercise, which suggests that the link between optimism and heart health may have its own mechanism which isn’t just a knock on effect of lifestyle factors.
We all know a healthy dose of optimism brightens your day and the day of those around you but these results suggest it could influence your heart health, too. It’s a particularly interesting finding because mindset isn’t necessarily determined by genetics – meaning if we can work out ways to help people look on the sunny side, it could be applied broadly.
Last Reviewed: 22/07/2020
© Norman Swan Medical Communications.
For reference: Rozanski, et al (2019). Association of Optimism With Cardiovascular Events and All-Cause Mortality A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Network Open doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.12200.