ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture Cuts Dry Mouth in Cancer Patients
Naprapathy: A Hands-On Approach to Pain Management
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Vitamin K Doesn't Slow Bone Loss
Low Vitamin D Raises Women's Hip Fracture Risk
New Clues to How Fish Oils Help Arthritis Patients
CANCER
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
Get to Know the Pap Test
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
CAREGIVING
Coordination Has Led to Quicker Heart Treatment
Many Hospital Patients Can't ID Their Doctors
Hospital Practices Influence Which Moms Will Breast-Feed
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
DIABETES
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
Just Say No to Nuts During Pregnancy
To Feel Better, Low-Fat Diet May Be Best
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Skin Woes Take Toll on U.S. Combat Troops
Freckles, Moles May Indicate Risk for Eye Cancer
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
EYE CARE, VISION
Autistic Children Make Limited Eye Contact
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
FITNESS
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
Should the FDA Regulate Tobacco?
Spread of Swine Flu in Japan Could Raise WHO Alert to Highest Level
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
Kids With Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Heart Trouble
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Countdown to Hair Loss
MENTAL HEALTH
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
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