In a study conducted by scientists at the human population laboratory, located in Berkeley, California, researchers evaluated the relationship among low, moderate, and high levels of helplessness, and all causes of death, the incidence of heart attacks and cancer in a population sample of middle aged men.

The participants were 2428 men, between the ages of 42 and 60, from another heart disease study, an ongoing longitudinal study researching the unestablished psychological and social risk factors for coronary heart disease, and others.

In the six years of follow-up, 174 deaths occurred, 87 were due to cardiovascular disease and 87 were not related to cardiovascular disease, including 40 deaths caused by cancer and 29 deaths due to violence or injury, 73 incident cancer cases, and 95 heart attacks occurred.

The men were rated low, moderate, or high and hopelessness. If they scored in the lower, middle, or upper one third on a two item hopelessness scale.

The researchers found a relationship such that moderately and highly hopeless men were at a significantly increased risk of death. Relative to those with low hopelessness scores.

Indeed, high helplessness men were at more than a threefold increased risk of death from violence or injury compared to the reference group.

When compared to other risk factors such as behavioral risk factors, socioeconomic biological perceived health, depression prevalent disease, or social support, high hopelessness was a significant factor.

High hopelessness also predicted heart attacks, and moderate hopelessness was associated with cancer.

These findings indicate that hopelessness is a strong predictor of serious health outcomes, independent of depression and traditional risk factors.

Source: Psychosomatic Medicine