The Role of Dispositional Optimism in Physical and Mental Well-Being

  • Nathaly Rius-OttenheimEmail author
  • Roos C. van der Mast
  • Frans G. Zitman
  • Erik J. Giltay
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 51)


Dispositional optimism is a personality trait that refers to the extent to which individuals expect positive outcomes for their future. Higher optimism has been associated with a better physical health and mental well-being. It is thought that these favorable outcomes result from the more effective coping styles used by optimists. These coping styles include goal-oriented strategies which enhance the perception of controllability of stressors and better social embedding and protect against feelings of loneliness. Optimists meet adversities using a proactive approach to deal with the source of stress, whether it concerns a health, psychological, or social problem. Dispositional optimism has been associated with a reduced risk for various physical disorders, including a lower risk for cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality, whereas evidence for a link with cancer is more ambiguous. The protective effect of optimism on physical health may be mediated through health-promoting behaviors, such as healthier dietary patterns and more physical activity. Biological processes such as low inflammation, low oxidative stress, and a resilient hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity may underlie the association. It is therefore undeniable that dispositional optimism plays a central role in health-related quality of life and subjective well-being. Intervention studies aiming to increase optimism are scarce and have shown that manipulation of one’s future expectancies may change dispositional optimism on the short term. Future well-designed trials should therefore explore whether the level of optimism can be improved through cognitive behavior therapy, exercise, lifestyle modification, social skills training, or biological interventions.


Telomere Length Mental Imagery Cardiac Rehabilitation Program Dispositional Optimism Leukocyte Telomere Length 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathaly Rius-Ottenheim
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roos C. van der Mast
    • 1
  • Frans G. Zitman
    • 1
  • Erik J. Giltay
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryLeiden University Medical CenterLeidenThe Netherlands

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