In the review of 15 studies that collectively involved almost 230,000 men and women, the findings were remarkably consistent, the study authors added.
“We found that optimists had a 35% lower risk for the most serious complications due to heart disease, compared to pessimists,” said lead author Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of cardiology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City.
That mind-body connection held up across all age groups, said investigators, ranging from teenagers to those in their 90s. That “suggests that optimism may be an asset, regardless of age,” Rozanski noted.
The studies also found the more positive one’s outlook, the less one’s risk for heart trouble or death.
Ten of the studies specifically looked at positivity’s impact on heart health, while nine looked at how a person’s outlook affected their risk of dying from a wide range of illnesses.
Many of the investigations asked basic questions touching on expectations of the future. In response, some participants indicated that they generally felt upbeat despite the uncertainty of what’s to come. Others said they never assume that things will pan out well down the road.
Over time, those who held more positive viewpoints were more likely to remain heart-healthy.
Yet, despite suggesting that “the magnitude of this association is substantial,” Rozanski and his colleagues stressed that the review can’t prove that optimism directly protects against heart disease and premature death.
Still, the team pointed to a whole host of potential reasons why positivity — directly or indirectly — may help stave off illness.
Some of the studies in the review indicated that optimistic people are more adept at problem-solving, better at developing coping mechanisms, and more apt to realize goals. And those are the kind of skills that could drive someone to take a more active interest in monitoring and maintaining their health, the researchers said.