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Think positive, ladies. Your health depends on it

August 10, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Happiness

Many studies suggest that people who possess a sunny outlook on life tend to have better health and live longer. Here's more evidence for the theory. A study by cardiac researchers showed that optimistic women had a lower risk of developing heart disease or dying of any cause compared to pessimistic women.

The study, published today in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Assn., studied 97,253 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 from the U.S. Women's Health Initiative study. The women did not have cancer or heart disease at the start of the study. They completed questionnaires designed to assess their emotional outlook. After eight years of follow-up, the optimistic women had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to the pessimistic women. Women who had a high degree of cynical hostility were 16% more likely to die during the eight years of follow-up compared to women with a low degree of cynical hostility.

"The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high degrees of negativity are hazardous to health," the lead author of the study, Dr. Hilary A. Tindle, of the University of Pittsburgh, said in a news release.

Race was found to be a factor in modifying the relationship between optimism and death.  Among African American women, optimists had a 33% lower risk of death after eight years of follow-up. Among white women, optimists had a 13% lower risk. The study found that optimists tended to be younger, live in the Western United States, report higher education and income, be employed, have health insurance and attend religious services at least once a week.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Lawrence K. Ho  /  Los Angeles Times

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