In previous studies, optimism has been shown to be associated with a range of favorable physical health outcomes and with greater success in work, school and relationships.
This new meta-analysis, published in JAMA Network Open, included 15 studies that measured optimism and pessimism by asking the level of agreement with such statements as “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best,” or “I rarely expect good things to happen to me.”
Analysis of the 10 studies that looked at heart disease, which pooled data on 209,436 people, found that compared with pessimists, people with the most optimistic outlook had a 35 percent lower risk for cardiovascular events.
Nine studies with data on all-cause mortality included 188,599 participants and found that optimists had a 14 percent lower risk of premature death than the most pessimistic people.
The studies had an average 14-year follow-up and controlled for various health and behavioral characteristics, including a wide range of cardiovascular disease risk factors.
“It seems optimists have better health behaviors,” said the lead author, Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “They’re more likely to exercise and to have better diet. And there is evidence of direct biological effects — they have less inflammation and fewer metabolic abnormalities.”