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Optimism and Physical Health: A Meta-analytic Review

Abstract

Background

Prior research links optimism to physical health, but the strength of the association has not been systematically evaluated.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to conduct a meta-analytic review to determine the strength of the association between optimism and physical health.

Methods

The findings from 83 studies, with 108 effect sizes (ESs), were included in the analyses, using random-effects models.

Results

Overall, the mean ES characterizing the relationship between optimism and physical health outcomes was 0.17, p < .001. ESs were larger for studies using subjective (versus objective) measures of physical health. Subsidiary analyses were also conducted grouping studies into those that focused solely on mortality, survival, cardiovascular outcomes, physiological markers (including immune function), immune function only, cancer outcomes, outcomes related to pregnancy, physical symptoms, or pain. In each case, optimism was a significant predictor of health outcomes or markers, all p < .001.

Conclusions

Optimism is a significant predictor of positive physical health outcomes.

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Acknowledgments

This publication was supported by the Pittsburgh Mind-Body Center (PMBC; NIH grants HL076852/076858) and by MH30915 and MH65430 awarded to Carnegie Mellon University.

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Correspondence to Michael F. Scheier Ph.D..

Additional information

References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analyses.

Appendix

Appendix

Characteristics of the studies

Table 2

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Rasmussen, H.N., Scheier, M.F. & Greenhouse, J.B. Optimism and Physical Health: A Meta-analytic Review. ann. behav. med. 37, 239 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-009-9111-x

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Keywords

  • Optimism
  • Physical health
  • Expectancies
  • Quantitative review