Study Suggests Correlation Between Heart Health and Optimism, so smile more & live longer


grin pink heart bling image

People whose glasses are half-full are reportedly twice as likely to have healthy hearts, according to a new study published in the Health Behavior and Policy Review journal.

“Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts,” said Rosalba Hernandez, the lead author of the study and social work professor at the University of Illinois. “This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health.”

The study took stock of more than 5,000 adults’ cardiovascular health and general outlook on life over the course of 11 years, beginning in July 2000. Blood pressure, body mass index, dietary intake, physical activity, tobacco use, cholesterol and blood glucose all factored into an individual subject’s heart health analysis.


Research subjects, all between the ages of 45 and 84 years old, also completed surveys to gauge their self-reported levels of optimism and general states mental health. The study found that those with the highest self-reported levels of optimism were about twice as likely to score strongly in terms of cardiovascular health.

The optimists in the study were found to have better blood sugar and cholesterol levels than their more negative counterparts. Optimism also correlated with higher levels of physical activity, healthier body mass indexes and lower rates of smoking.

The study was conducted by professors from Indiana, Northwestern, Chapman, Harvard and Drexel universities and funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Center for Research Resources. Its findings contribute to a growing pool of research suggesting correlation between physical health and mental and emotional wellbeing.

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Time cites a 2012 Harvard study suggesting a link between “positive psychological well-being” and reduced rates of heart disease and stroke. That particular study acknowledges that psychological well-being is “a broad concept” but ultimately found that, out of a series of psychological indicators, “optimism is most robustly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events.”

A separate 2011 study found that “satisfaction in most life domains was associated with reduced “coronary heart disease risk.”


Henry Sapiecha

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