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Original article

Optimists report fewer physical and mental health conditions than pessimists in the general Norwegian population

Inger Schou-Bredal, ATore Bonsaksen, Trond Heir, Laila Skogstad, Anners Lerdal, Tine Grimholt, Øivind Ekeberg

Health Psychology Report • 2019
Online publish date: 2019/01/03
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Several studies have found that optimism is associated with better health. However, all those studies have investigated the subject in a specific context: gender, age group, diagnosis, situation, or population segment. Given the association found between optimism and physical health, mental health and well-being in previous studies, one would expect optimistic individuals in the general population to report fewer physical and mental health conditions during their lifetimes than pessimists. The aim of the present study was to test this hypothesis.

Participants and procedure
A random sample of 1792 people participated in a survey on a broad variety of mental and physical health conditions. In addition they filled out the Life Orientation Test–Revised (LOT-R). Optimism was defined as a score of ≥ 17 on the LOT-R.

Optimists reported a lower prevalence of a wide range of mental and physical health conditions compared with pessimists. The associations between optimism and better health conditions persisted for the majority of health conditions investigated, even after adjustment for age, gender and education. Overall, pessimists had a greater estimated risk of disease in general. In addition 11.30% of the pessimists reported having had five or more different diseases during their lifetimes, compared with 3.90% of the optimists.

Our results add to growing evidence that optimism plays an important role in health and support the view that fostering optimism is an appropriate strategy for promoting health.


survey; dispositional optimism; general population; health conditions

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