Page last updated at 23:12 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 00:12 UK

Optimistic women 'live longer'

Happy woman
It pays to be optimistic

Women who are optimistic have a lower risk of heart disease and death, an American study shows.

The latest study by US investigators mirrors the findings of earlier work by a Dutch team showing optimism reduces heart risk in men.

The research on nearly 100,000 women, published in the journal Circulation, found pessimists had higher blood pressure and cholesterol.

Even taking these risk factors into account, attitude alone altered risks.

Optimistic women had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause after more than eight years of follow-up.

Making healthy choices such as not smoking and eating well, will have much more of an impact on your heart health than your outlook
British Heart Foundation

In comparison, cynical women who harboured hostile thoughts about others or were generally mistrusting of others were 16% more likely to die over the same time-scale.

One possibility is that optimists are better at coping with adversity, and might, for example take better care of themselves when they do fall ill.

In the study, the optimistic women exercised more and were leaner than pessimistic peers.

Lead researcher Dr Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said: "The majority of evidence suggests that sustained, high degrees of negativity are hazardous to health."

A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said: "We know that hostile emotions can release certain chemicals in the body which may increase the risk of heart disease, but we don't fully understand how and why.

"Optimistic or hostile attitudes can be linked to health behaviours such as smoking or poor diet, which may also influence heart health.

"A good thing for all women is that regardless of your outlook, making healthy choices such as not smoking and eating well, will have much more of an impact on your heart health than your outlook.

"More research is needed to explore how and why these psychological attitudes may affect health."

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