Articles Health Psychology

Current Psychology

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 207-218

First online:

Explanatory style and health

  • Leslie P. KamenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Martin E. P. SeligmanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

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Explanatory style, the habitual way an individual explains the causes of bad and good events, is reliably associated with future health. In this article, we review evidence from three studies which demonstrate a significant relationship between pessimism (the belief that bad events are caused by internal, stable, and global factors and good events are caused by external, unstable, and specific factors) and an increased risk for infectious disease, poor health, and early mortality. We suggest two possible mechanisms which might mediate the link between pessimism and poor health. Finally, we propose that interventions aimed at changing a pessimistic outlook might lower the probability of future illness.