Optimism Versus Pessimism as Predictors of Physical Health: A Comprehensive Reanalysis of Dispositional Optimism Research

Optimism/Pessimism Meta-Analytic Consortium, Michael F Scheier, Joshua D Swanson, Meaghan Barlow, Joel B Greenhouse, Carsten Wrosch, Hilary A Tindle

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    Abstract

    Prior research has related dispositional optimism to physical health. Traditionally, dispositional optimism is treated as a bipolar construct, anchored at one end by optimism and the other by pessimism. Optimism and pessimism, however, may not be diametrically opposed, but rather may reflect 2 independent, but related dimensions. This article reports a reanalysis of data from previously published studies on dispositional optimism. The reanalysis was designed to evaluate whether the presence of optimism or the absence of pessimism predicted positive physical health more strongly. Relevant literatures were screened for studies relating dispositional optimism to physical health. Authors of relevant studies were asked to join a consortium, the purpose of which was to reanalyze previously published data sets separating optimism and pessimism into distinguishable components. Ultimately, data were received from 61 separate samples (N = 221,133). Meta-analytic analysis of data in which optimism and pessimism were combined into an overall index (the typical procedure) revealed a significant positive association with an aggregated measure of physical health outcomes (r = .026, p < .001), as did meta-analytic analyses with the absence of pessimism (r = .029, p < .001) and the presence of optimism (r = .011, p < .018) separately. The effect size for pessimism was significantly larger than the effect size for optimism (Z = -2.403, p < .02). Thus, the absence of pessimism was more strongly related to positive health outcomes than was the presence of optimism. Implications of the findings for future research and clinical interventions are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)529-548
    Number of pages20
    JournalAmerican Psychologist
    Volume76
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2021

    Keywords

    • optimism
    • pessimism
    • meta-analytic methodology
    • physical health

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