Pessimism Deadly for Heart Patients?
Outlook Affects Survival, Study Shows, So Look on the Bright Side
WebMD News Archive
March 13, 2008 -- Keeping a positive attitude is good for your health, and
if you are a heart patient it just may save your life, new research
A study of patients with heart disease followed for six
to 10 years found that those with pessimistic beliefs about their recovery were
twice as likely to die during that timeframe as those who felt more
The research was presented this week in Baltimore at the annual meeting of
the American Psychosomatic Society, a group dedicated to the research of the
interaction between the mind and body.
"This study is one of the first to examine how a patient's attitude
toward their disease affects their health over the long term, and ultimately
their survival," says lead researcher John C. Barefoot, PhD.
Mind and Body Connection
Barefoot, Redford B. Williams, MD, and colleagues from Duke University
Medical Center conducted psychological assessments on 2,825 patients
hospitalized for heart disease.
The patients were asked to describe their expectations about their ability
to recover from their illness and regain a normal life.
During six to 10 years of follow-up, 978 of the patients died, with 66%
dying of heart disease.
Patient expectations about their disease course were highly related to
survival, with patients who had the most pessimistic views dying at twice the
rate of those who were most optimistic.
After controlling for factors that could influence survival, including
disease severity, functional status, and depression, the death rate among
the most pessimistic patients was still 30% higher than the most optimistic,
Williams tells WebMD.
"Negative outlook was an independent predictor of poor outcomes," he
says. "And there seems to be something protective about having a more
optimistic attitude that makes you feel that you are going to be OK."
He says patients with positive expectations may be more likely to make
lifestyle changes and follow treatment regimens prescribed by their
The Impact of Stress
Another possible explanation is that positive thoughts may lessen the
damaging effects of stress on the body.
A separate study presented by the Duke researchers at the Baltimore meeting
examined this theory.