Thursday 13 August 2009

Ladies: Be Optimistic ... or Else

Optimistic women have a lower risk of developing heart disease or dying from any cause compared to pessimistic women, according to research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers also reported that women with a high degree of cynical hostility — harboring hostile thoughts toward others or having a general mistrust of people — were at higher risk of dying; however, their risk of developing heart disease was not altered.

“As a physician, I’d like to see people try to reduce their negativity in general,” said Hilary A. Tindle, M.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

“The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high degrees of negativity are hazardous to health.”

Just in case you were thinking that perhaps the Optimists were less likely to smoke, hide in dark places and eat poorly, and more likely to socialize, be active and ah ... get more ... ah ... healthy exercise, be assured that one of the important features of this study is how they took all these factors into account and still lost the pessimists.

Curiouser still, tho not beyond common sense, it turns out the Optimism can be theraputically contageous, as reported elsewhere on that site the story of a Lodz Ghetto physician who was only able to treat patients with his patience leading to a modern empirical study of the effectiveness of positive attitudes among the caregivers:

It’s amazing what positive thinking and positive reinforcement from those around you can do to get you through illness, bad times, and whatever other barriers you encounter.

Sometimes, this kind of empathy all by itself can promote healing. In a study published in the July issue of Family Medicine, Dr. David Rakel, director of integrative medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, looked at 350 patients who were randomly assigned to one of three groups: no interaction with a doctor (the patients saw only study staff), a standard visit with a physician, and a visit in which the doctor asked more questions and tried to show more empathy. The patients then rated their doctors on empathy.

Rakel found that the 84 patients in the latter group rated their doctors best and got rid of their colds a day sooner than the others, and they had stronger immune responses on a standard test. Said Rakel: “Kindness matters.’’