Pessimism Affects Heart Health

Pessimists always see the glass half empty. Now they have another reason to worry, or to stop being a pessimist, because according to a study published in "BMC Public Health", pessimism seems to be a powerful risk factor for death from heart disease. And, the worst of all, optimism does not seem to be a protective factor. The study analyzed 2,267 finnish men and women.

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at Central Hospital of Päijät-Häme (Finland) have found that those with high levels of pessimism seemed to have an increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease, even after adjusting for known physiological risk factors. Optimism did not seem to have any effect on that risk.

"High levels of pessimism have previously been linked to factors affecting cardiac health, such as inflammation, but data on the connection between risk of death from coronary heart disease and optimism and pessimism as personality traits are relatively rare", says Mikko Pänkäläinen, author of the research.

According to Pänkäläinen, it is easy to assess the levels of pessimism and this can be a very useful tool along with other known risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension or smoking to determine the risk of mortality from coronary heart disease.

In addition, this is the first study to examine mortality from this cause and its association with optimism and pessimism as independent variables. Previous research that dealt with optimism and pessimism as opposites on an ongoing scale yielded conflicting results, particularly in relation to the associations between optimism and deaths related to heart disease.

The researchers found that the 121 men and women who died of coronary heart disease during the 11-year follow-up period of the study had been more pessimistic than the people who were still alive in that period. However, there was no difference between groups marked by optimism, suggesting that pessimism alone has an effect on mortality from coronary heart disease.

Researchers believe that pessimism actually creates a stressful environment in the body and that leads to heart disease. You can not always believe that the worst will happen. Making an effort to see things in a different light can make a difference.