The adage, “Don’t worry, be happy,” captures the essence of the first-ever metastudy of the relationship between happiness and heart health. Based on a comprehensive review involving 200-plus studies, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, concluded that a positive outlook on life could help protect the heart from cardiovascular disease.
Julia Boehm, Ph.D., and Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., discovered that certain psychological traits—optimism, positive emotions and a sense of meaning—both offer measurable protection against heart attacks and strokes and slow the progression of cardiovascular disease. The pair found that the most optimistic individuals had approximately 50 percent less chance of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared with their less upbeat peers.
“The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive,” notes Boehm. “Psychology has been trying to fix what’s wrong with people, but there’s also an increasing interest in what people might be doing right.”