Research suggests optimistic attitude can reduce risk of heart disease in older men

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School of Public Health researchers find hard data to support idea that “thinking positively” improves health

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, working with colleagues from the Department of Veterans Affairs, studied some 1,306 Boston area men who were part of the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. In 1986, the volunteers completed a questionnaire that judged whether they were optimistic or pessimistic. They all were healthy individuals with no known chronic medical conditions when the study began. The men were followed for an average of 10 years after filling out the questionnaire. Study participants with the highest levels of optimism accounted for less than half the number of cases of angina, nonfatal and fatal heart attacks during the course of the study when compared to pessimistic men. “Most of the evidence for the notion that ‘thinking positively’ is good for your health has been anecdotal – this study provides some of the first hard medical evidence for this idea in the arena of heart disease,” said Laura Kubzansky, assistant professor of health and social behavior at the Harvard School of Public Health. The study was supported in part by grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and from the National Institute for Aging.