When it comes to positive thinking and health, we’re with The Sopranos’ late Johnny Sack, who, when told by his wife that his negative thinking brought on his cancer, spits back “What about all these six-year-olds with leukaemia? What’s that from? All their negative thinking?”
Unfortunately, we now have to admit that positive thinking helps things just a little bit, as a study published in Health Behaviour and Policy Review has found that people with a positive outlook on life have better heart health than the rest of us. In fact, Rosalba Hernandez, the study’s lead author, says, “Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts. This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health.”
Researchers evaluated over 5,000 participants, looking at seven major heath metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity, and tobacco use. They also completed surveys that assessed mental health, optimism, and physical health.
People who were the most optimistic were 50% more likely to have total health scores in the intermediate range, and 76% more likely to be in the ideal range.
Optimists also had better blood pressure and total cholesterol levels than the rest of us. They also tended to be more physically active, had healthier body mass indexes, and were less likely to smoke.
So, for the sake of your health: smile. Your ticker’s counting on it.