You would think that getting over excited, jumping up and down and cheering wildly may be bad for your heart but a French study of cardiovascular mortality in 1988 found that on July 12, when France beat Brazil in the finals of the Soccer World Cup less French men died of cardiovascular disease that day. The rate of cardiovascular death was higher for men on the other days between July 7 and July 17, yet French women died at the same rate on all the days. Doctors don’t know why fatal heart attacks declined on that day but studies evaluating the role of optimism on health may provide a clue.
As an Aged Care Placement Specialist I spend a lot of time with elderly clients and find studies regarding the effect of optimism on longevity of particular interest. Scientists from Harvard and Boston University evaluated 1,306 men with an average age of 61 on each volunteer’s optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style, blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, alcohol use, smoking and family history of heart disease. None of these men had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease at the beginning of the study. The Scientists found over the next 10 years that the most pessimistic men were more than twice as likely to develop heart disease than the most optimistic men, after taking other risk factors into account.
Another study of 309 middle-aged patients scheduled to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery showed that the optimists were half as likely to require re-hospitalisation as the pessimists. Each patient had a psychological evaluation designed to measure optimism, depression, neuroticism, and self-esteem in addition to a complete pre-operative physical exam. Then they were tracked for six months following their surgery. In another, similar study of 298 angioplasty patients results showed that the optimists once again were better off. Patients were tracked over a six month period and it was found that the pessimists were three times more likely than the optimists to have heart attacks, require repeat angioplasties or bypass operations.
Longitudinal studies of large numbers are the golden standard for research and a U.S. study of 6,959 students who took a comprehensive personality test when they entered a University in the mid-1960s showed that the pessimistic students suffered a 42% higher rate of death than the most optimistic over a 40 year period. The causes of death varied with cancer being the most common.
With that I recommend a good belly laugh, a bright outlook and enjoy your weekend!