Why optimists are less vulnerable to disease?
How might optimism work to make people less vulnerable and pessimism to make people more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease? The possibilities divide into three large categories:
1. Optimists take action and have healthier lifestyles. Optimists believe that their actions matter, whereas pessimists believe they are helpless and nothing they do will matter. Optimists try, while pessimists lapse into passive helplessness. Optimists therefore act on medical advice readily, as George Vaillant found when the surgeon general’s report on smoking and health came out in 1964: it was the optimists who gave up smoking, not the pessimists. Optimists may take better care of themselves. Even more generally, people with high life satisfaction (which correlates highly with optimism) are much more likely to diet, not to smoke, and to exercise regularly than people with lower life satisfaction. According to one study, happy people also sleep better than unhappy people. Optimists not only follow medical advice readily, they also take action to avoid bad events, whereas pessimists are passive: optimists are more likely to seek safety in tornado shelters when there is a tornado warning than pessimists, who may believe the tornado is God’s will. The more bad events that befall you, the more illness. 2. Social support. The more friends and the more love in your life, the less illness. George Vaillant found that people who have one person whom they would be comfortable calling at three in the morning to tell their troubles were healthier. John Cacioppo found that lonely people are markedly less healthy than sociable people. In an experiment, participants read a script over the phone to strangers—reading in either a depressed voice or a cheerful voice. The strangers hang up on the pessimist sooner than on the optimist. Happy people have richer social networks than unhappy people, and social connectedness contributes to a...
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