ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Traditional Chinese Therapy May Help Ease Eczema
When Healing Becomes a Commodity
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Improved Hip Implants Can Last 20 Years
Barefoot Lifestyle Has Its Dangers
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
CANCER
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
Antioxidants Pose No Melanoma Threat
Immune Therapy May Aid Kids With Neuroblastoma
CAREGIVING
Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly
With Alzheimer's, Health-Care Costs Could Triple
Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
DIET, NUTRITION
Brown Rice Tied to Better Heart Health in Study
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Eating Nuts May Help Cholesterol Levels
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Freckles, Moles May Indicate Risk for Eye Cancer
Green Areas Lower Health Inequities Between Rich, Poor
Greener Neighborhoods Mean Slimmer Children
EYE CARE, VISION
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
FITNESS
As Temperature Plummets, It's Still Safe to Exercise
Avoiding a Holiday Season of Discontent
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
New Options Offered for Sleep Apnea
Swine Flu Fatality Rate a 'Little Bit' Higher Than That of Seasonal Flu
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Implanted Defibrillators Boost Long-Term Survival
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
Teen Stress May Have Roots in First Three Years of Life
Boosting Kids' Stroke IQ May Save Lives
MEN'S HEALTH
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
MENTAL HEALTH
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
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