, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 119-132

Explanatory style as a risk factor for illness

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Abstract

Some have speculated that explanatory style puts an individual at risk for illness. Study 1 supports this hypothesis by showing that college students who believe that stable + global factors caused bad events experienced more days of illness in the following month and visited physicians more frequently in the following year than students who explain bad events with unstable + specific causes. These findings held even when level of previous illness was controlled. Study 2 explores some of the possible links between explanatory style and poor health. College students who believe that stable + global factors caused bad events reported more unhealthy habits, lower efficacy to change these habits, and more stressful occurrences than students who explain bad events with unstable + specific causes.

Thanks are expressed to Connie Burton for assistance in gathering data, and to Martin Seligman and Lisa Bossio for advice in preparing this paper. Neil Jacobson and several anonymous reviewers also made helpful suggestions that are gratefully acknowledged. Some of these data were presented at the 94th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., August 1986.