Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Study Examines How Rheumatoid Arthritis Destroys Bone
Cane Use May Cut Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis
Alcohol Abuse Can Damage Bones
Seaweed May Help Treat Lymphoma
More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Soluble Fiber, But Not Bran, Soothes Irritable Bowel
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Smog Standards Need Tightening, Activists Say
Population-Based Strategy Urged to Cut U.S. Obesity Rate
Database Helps Assess Your Breast Cancer Risk
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Avoiding a Holiday Season of Discontent
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Afternoon Nap Might Make You Smarter
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Cocaine Spurs Long-Term Change in Brain Chemistry
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Shedding Light on Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
Coffee Is Generally Heart-Friendly
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
How Much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Add your Article

Optimism May Boost Immune System

An optimistic outlook might strenghten your body's ability to fight off infection, new research suggests.

The finding doesn't prove that looking on the sunny side leads to better health, but it does add to evidence of a link between attitude and disease by suggesting that "a single person -- with the same personality and genes -- has different immune function when he or she feels more or less optimistic," said study author Suzanne C. Segerstrom, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Kentucky.

From 2001 to 2005, Segerstrom and a colleague gave surveys to 124 first-year law students. The students, the majority of whom were white (90 percent) and female (55 percent), answered questions about topics such as their levels of optimism about their success in school.

The participants also were given an injection of an antigen that makes the immune system react by creating a bump on the skin. A bigger bump means that the immune system reaction is stronger.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the March issue of Psychological Science, found that the immune response became more powerful in individual students as they became more optimistic over time, and lessened as they became more pessimistic.

But there's more to it. "When people felt more optimistic, they also felt more happy, attentive and joyous, and that accounted for some of the relationship between optimism and immunity," Segerstrom said.

In the big picture, the findings suggest that the effect of optimism on immunity may be limited, "as it leaves room for lots of other factors that contribute to fluctuations in immunity over time," she said.

James E. Maddux, a professor of psychology at George Mason University, said the findings are "another example of the power of optimism, of what used to be called positive thinking back in the 1950s and 1960s."

He added, "It's hard to make any firm conclusion from a single study, but it's one more piece of evidence that what we think actually matters, in some very important ways."

So what's going on in the body? If there is a link between attitude, emotions and health, how does it work? Dr. Hilary Tindle, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Health Care, has several theories.

One is that "happier or more positive, hopeful people tend to live healthier," she said. And hopeful people may react in healthier ways to stress, helping them to recover more quickly.

Also, "more positive individuals are also more likely to adhere to medical therapy and advice, and therefore may be healthier on that basis," Tindle added.

In a study of women published last August, Tindle found that optimism appears to have an effect on the heart and longevity. "Optimistic women had more stable risk profiles, with less high blood pressure and diabetes. They didn't smoke as much and tended to exercise more. So their lower risk might just be associated with living healthier," she said.

Or, she noted, a woman's outlook on life might affect how she responds to stress. Pessimism and cynical hostility might lead to higher blood pressure, higher heart rate and other physical risk factors, Tindle reported.

SOURCES: Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Ph.D., professor, department of psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington; Hilary Tindle, M.D., M.P.H., researcher, Center for Research on Health Care, division of general internal medicine, University of Pittsburgh; James E. Maddux, Ph.D., professor, department of psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.; March 2010 Psychological Science Published on: March 25, 2010