Warning: Pessimism Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Kudos to the American Heart Association and its journal Circulation for confirming something I know to be true: Optimism is healthy. The converse is also true: Pessimism is hazardous to your health.

AHA posted a summary Aug. 10 of a study published by the journal that found:

  • Optimistic women have a lower risk of developing heart disease and dying than pessimistic women.
  • Pessimistic African-American women in particular had a higher risk of dying in the study.
  • Researchers say it is unclear whether interventions to change attitudes can alter risk.

That third one surprised me, but it makes sense. Losing a job or a loved one can be devastating and demoralizing -- which is why safety professionals and risk managers do what they do, to prevent as many life-changing injuries or fatalities as possible -- but the survivor's basic concept of the world and those in it really won't change.

AHA said the study's authors also concluded women "with a high degree of cynical hostility -- harboring hostile thoughts toward others or having a general mistrust of people -- were at higher risk of dying; however, their risk of developing heart disease was not altered."

"As a physician, I'd like to see people try to reduce their negativity in general," Hilary A. Tindle, M.D., MPH, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said in AHA's release on the findings. "The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high degrees of negativity are hazardous to health."

This was the largest study to date (97,253 women -- 89,259 white, 7,994 black, ages 50 to 79, from the Women’s Health Initiative) to prospectively study whether optimism and cynical hostility in post-menopausal white and black American women were associated with health outcomes. It found optimistic women had a 9 percent lower risk than pessimistic ones of developing heart disease and a 14 percent lower risk of dying from any cause after more than eight years of follow-up. Women with a high degree of cynical hostility were 16 percent more likely to die during eight years of follow-up than those without it. Optimism was defined as answering "yes" to questions such as: "In unclear times, I usually expect the best." Pessimism was defined as answering "yes" to questions such as: "If something can go wrong for me, it will."

I hope this month's health care reform town hall meeting participants will take note.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Aug 14, 2009

Product Showcase

  • AirChek Connect Sampling Pump

    Stay connected to your sampling with the SKC AirChek® Connect Sampling Pump! With its Bluetooth connection to PC and mobile devices, you can monitor AirChek Connect pump operation without disrupting workflow. SKC designed AirChek Connect specifically for all OEHS professionals to ensure accurate, reliable flows from 5 to 5000 ml/min and extreme ease of use. AirChek Connect offers easy touch screen operation and flexibility. It is quality built to serve you and the workers you protect. Ask about special pricing and a demo at AIHA Connect Booth 1003. Read More

  • SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit

    The SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit is a single-use spot test designed for use in screening for cannabis compounds in any sample type or on any surface. The test is capable of identifying the presumed presence of cannabinoids in very small quantities, with a level of detection as little as 6 μg in mass. Learn more about the SwabTek® Cannabis Test Kit and the rest of SwabTek surface drug testing solutions through the webinar titled "Everything You Want To Know About Surface Testing" Read More


    FOR HIGHEST DEMANDS. A cutting tool in which function and design go hand in hand. Meet the SECUPRO MARTEGO, our prize-winning squeeze-grip safety knife with fully automatic retractable blade for safety. • Ergonomically friendly trigger mechanism to engage the blade • Durable body made of aluminum • Safer alternative to fixed blade utility knives for general cutting tasks • 9 mm Cutting depth • Easy, tool free blade change Dimensions: L 6.10" L x 0.71" W x 1.91" H Weight: 3.70 oz Cutting Depth: 9 mm Read More