Positive Thinking Improves Health

Positive thinking and a positive attitude may indeed have power. Positive attitude is not just a state of mind but scientists have discovered a biochemical connection between the brain and the body. In recent years, scientists have found that an optimistic outlook can do wonders in improving health quality. A growing number of scientific studies indicated that optimistic people tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health than pessimistic people.

A number of studies have also shown that a positive attitude can increase longevity. In a study that tracked the lives of 660 subjects over the age of 50 for 23 years, the results showed that those with more positive views of their own aging process lived an average of 7.5 years longer (Levy et al. 2002). A different study showed that during a nine-year follow-up period on 941 subjects between the age of 65-80, pessimistic subjects were 55% more likely to die and the effect was predominantly strong in men (Giltay et al. 2004). Another study looked at 6,958 students who had taken a psychological test and were followed up for 40 years (Brummett et al. 2006). The study found that the death rate among the most pessimistic subjects was 42% higher than among the most optimistic subjects.

Positive emotion may also alter the risk of stress-related disease (Ong et al. 2011). Depression has been consistently linked in cardiovascular disease as mentioned in many previous studies (Go et al. 2014). However, scientists have found evidence suggesting that the optimistic attitude was associated with a lower incidence of coronary heart disease. This was shown in two large cohort studies. The first study was published in 2001 where 1306 men with average of 10 years follow-up has found that men with most optimistic explanatory style were less likely to develop coronary heart disease as compared with those who were most pessimistic (Kubzansky et al. 2001). Another study expanding over eight-year of trial that involved 97,253 postmenopausal women indicated that optimist subjects were less likely to develop coronary heart disease and die than pessimist subjects (Tindle et al. 2009).

Researchers also found that optimists showed improved recovery and survival rates after surgery. In cardiovascular patients, optimism has been linked to a more rapid recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery and a lower rate of rehospitalisation (Tindle et al. 2012). Patients with higher depression scores were associated with worst clinical outcomes, presenting with impaired wound healing with infections and also poor emotional and physical recovery (Doering et al. 2005). Findings from a study done on 534 cancer patients revealed that patients that were pessimistic posed a significant higher risk for mortality (Novotny et al. 2010). A systematic review on 16 studies that looked at patients’ attitudes toward health showed that patients with optimistic attitude tend to have increased rate of recovery (Mavros et al. 2011).

Evidently, there are many benefits to positive thinking. People who think positively tend to be less affected by stress and live healthier lives in general besides avoiding unhealthy behaviours. Positive attitude can aid in stress management and even plays an important role in overall health and well-being.

Muhiddin Bin Ishak

Research Officer

UMBI

References

Brummett, B. H., M. J. Helms, W. G. Dahlstrom & I. C. Siegler 2006. Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period. Mayo Clinic proceedings 81(12): 1541-4.

Doering, L. V., D. K. Moser, W. Lemankiewicz, C. Luper & S. Khan 2005. Depression, healing, and recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery. American journal of critical care : an official publication, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses 14(4): 316-24.

Giltay, E. J., J. M. Geleijnse, F. G. Zitman, T. Hoekstra & E. G. Schouten 2004. Dispositional optimism and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in a prospective cohort of elderly dutch men and women. Archives of general psychiatry 61(11): 1126-35.

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Kubzansky, L. D., D. Sparrow, P. Vokonas & I. Kawachi 2001. Is the glass half empty or half full? A prospective study of optimism and coronary heart disease in the normative aging study. Psychosomatic medicine 63(6): 910-6.

Levy, B. R., M. D. Slade, S. R. Kunkel & S. V. Kasl 2002. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of personality and social psychology 83(2): 261-70.

Mavros, M. N., S. Athanasiou, I. D. Gkegkes, K. A. Polyzos, G. Peppas & M. E. Falagas 2011. Do psychological variables affect early surgical recovery? PloS one 6(5): e20306.

Novotny, P., R. C. Colligan, D. W. Szydlo, M. M. Clark, S. Rausch, J. Wampfler, J. A. Sloan & P. Yang 2010. A pessimistic explanatory style is prognostic for poor lung cancer survival. Journal of thoracic oncology : official publication of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer 5(3): 326-32.

Ong, A. D., D. K. Mroczek & C. Riffin 2011. The Health Significance of Positive Emotions in Adulthood and Later Life. Social and personality psychology compass 5(8): 538-551.

Tindle, H., B. H. Belnap, P. R. Houck, S. Mazumdar, M. F. Scheier, K. A. Matthews, F. He & B. L. Rollman 2012. Optimism, response to treatment of depression, and rehospitalization after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Psychosomatic medicine 74(2): 200-7.

Tindle, H. A., Y. F. Chang, L. H. Kuller, J. E. Manson, J. G. Robinson, M. C. Rosal, G. J. Siegle & K. A. Matthews 2009. Optimism, cynical hostility, and incident coronary heart disease and mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative. Circulation 120(8): 656-62.