Researchers have found that women with high levels of cynical hostility, harboring hostile thoughts towards other or having a general mistrust of people are at higher risk of dying, but the risk of developing heart disease wasn’t different from non-hostile women.

Hillary A.  Tendo, M.D., MPH, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine, a University of Pittsburgh, said, “as a physician, I like to see people try to reduce their negativity in general.  The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high levels of negativity are hazardous to health.”

This is the largest study to date to evaluate the health effects of optimism and cynical hostility in post-menopausal women.  The researchers found that women’s attitudes are linked to their health outcomes.

Women who are optimistic when compared to those who weren’t, experienced a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14% decrease chance of dying from any cause over an eight-year follow-up period.  Also, women with a high degree of cynical hostility and compared to those with a very low degree had a 16% greater likelihood of dying during the eight-year period.

Dr. Tyndall said, “prior to our work, the strongest evidence linking optimism and all cause mortality was from a Dutch study showing a more pronounced Association and then.”

The study evaluated nine the 7253 postmenopausal women between the ages of 5279 from the women’s health initiative.  They were cancer free and did not have heart disease.  At the beginning of the study.

The researchers used the live orientation test revised questionnaire to measure their levels of optimism and cynical hostility.  They place the women into four groups optimists, mild optimistic, low optimists, and pessimists.

Optimism was defined as answering yes to question such as, “in unclear times, I usually expect the best.”  Pessimism was defined as answering yes to question such as, “if something can go wrong for me, it will.”

The optimism are less likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoke, not exercise, have obesity, or diabetes.  And the relationship between optimism and heart disease and death.  Persistent even considering all other risk factors.

“This is a very reasonable stepping stone to future research in this area-both are potential mechanisms of hot attitudes may affect health, and for randomized controlled trials to examine if attitudes can be changed to improve health,” Dr. Tyndall said.

Source: American Heart Association