, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 207-218

Explanatory style and health

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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.

Supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to Leslie P. Kamen; U.S. Public Health Service Grant MH-19064 and National Institute of Aging Grant AG05590 to Martin E. P. Seligman; U.S. Public Health Service Grant MH40142-01A1 to Martin E.P. Seligman, Joan S. Girgus, and Susan Nolen-Hoeksema. Supported in part by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Determinants and Consequences of Health-Promoting and Health-Damaging Behavior.