Study: Pollyanna Will Outlive Everyone

Nevertheless, Ballantyne said the study's findings struck him as a demonstration of the attitudes and reactions he sees in his practice.

"It's probably very relevant in terms of the current economic environment," said Ballantyne.

Ballantyne gave the example of two patients facing similar stresses at work -- such as picking up extra duties from laid-off employees.

"What I typically see when people have stress is some people exercise less, they eat much worse. There is this whole issue of eating to make yourself feel better, drinking too much," he said. "With a lot of people it seems things start to unravel in their lifestyle."

Both Pessimism, Optimism Are Self-Fulfilling Prophesies

Rarely, he said, he might see a person react to stress with optimism and gear up for the temporary challenge at work by planning.

"People who are optimistic, they think, 'well, I got to be a little more efficient. It's going to be bad for a while. I'm going to work out and sleep.'"

In addition to the agreement with what he sees within his practice, Ballantyne thought the findings correlated to past studies about depression.

"There's been a lot of data in terms of cardiovascular disease and depression, and this is a little bit of the flip side of depression, isn't it?" he said.

"We've known for a long time that people who have depression have very high heart disease rates. ... What they did was take it to another level," said Ballantyne. "It's one thing to not be depressed. It's another to say that someone is optimistic."

While all these studies work out how mood relates to health, they still leave the question of what a person is to do with their attitude.

"You can't just make someone who is pessimistic, optimistic," said Dr. Terry Rabinowitz, a professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington.

But Rabinowitz doesn't always see pessimism and optimism and immutable qualities in someone's personality. In fact, Rabinowitz said a person may go through extended periods of pessimism and optimism, even for years at a time -- so there may be hope.

"You could take a snapshot of this cohort," said Rabinowitz. "But what's their overall view of the world, other than are they just pessimistic today, or this year?"


Want tips on living healthy? Visit the OnCall+ Wellness Center.

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