People who had the highest levels of optimism—the tendency to believe good events are likely and bad events are unlikely—had a 22% lower risk of developing hypertension than those with the lowest levels of optimism, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study tracked up to five years of data from 103,486 initially healthy active-duty U.S. Army soldiers. The link between higher levels of optimism and lower levels of high blood pressure was seen across sociodemographic factors such as sex, age, and ethnicity and was independent of health-related variables such as smoking, drinking, and body mass index.
“That means that even if you have fewer good health behaviors, optimism can still be beneficial,” said co-author Claudia Trudel-Fitzgerald, a research scientist in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, in a September 9, 2020 Forbes article.
Trudel-Fitzgerald explained that chronic diseases such as hypertension are due to multiple risk factors. The study’s finding is “great news because optimism is more modifiable than many established, often unalterable risk factors of hypertension,” she said. “It becomes an interesting potential target for prevention.”
Other Harvard Chan School authors of the study included Laura Kubzansky, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and co-director of the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness, and Hayami Koga, a PhD student in population health sciences.
Read the Forbes article: Not Just Wishful Thinking: Optimism May Reduce Hypertension Risk
New evidence that optimists live longer (Harvard Chan School feature)
Optimism may be good for the heart (Harvard Chan School news)