Positive people live longer with cardiovascular disease

September 18, 2013 - 06:34

If you have a positive outlook on life, you’ll live longer with your cardiovascular disease, new study suggests. The reason is probably that positive people have more energy to exercise.

Being positive is great because then you exercise more. Or is it the other way round? Whichever way it goes, scientists are fairly certain that positive people live longer with cardiovascular disease. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Being reasonably happy even after being diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease increases your chances of surviving for five years or longer with the disease.

This is one of the conclusions in a new study of 607 Danish patients with cardiovascular disease.

Physical activity appears to be the link

The study showed that positive patients were only half as likely to die within five years as the less positive ones.

“Previous studies have shown that affective symptoms – of e.g. depression and anxiety – are associated with a poorer prognosis, but the cause is still being discussed,” says Associate Professor Lau Caspar Thygesen of the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU).

“Our study adds something new because we focused more on positive feelings, plus we included physical activity, which may appear to be the link between affective symptoms and mortality.”

Exercise and positivity are linked
Our study adds something new because we focused more on positive feelings, plus we included physical activity, which may appear to be the link between affective symptoms and mortality.
Lau Caspar Thygesen

Co-author Susanne S. Pedersen, an adjunct professor at SDU and a professor at Tilburg University in Holland, adds that the study does not reveal whether positive patients exercise more or whether exercise makes patients more positive:

”Based on other studies, we have reason to believe it can work both ways, because when people engage in physical activity their brain releases substances such as serotonin, which make them feel good. But this is a classic chicken-and-egg question.”

The authors point out that the study also has other methodological limitations. One of these is that it lacks information about the type and intensity of the exercise in the study.

Too early for interventions

The researchers nevertheless conclude that:

“Interventions directed at increasing the amount of positive affect as well as exercise may provide better results when it comes to the patients’ long-term prospects and their psychological well-being than those that only focus on one of these two factors,” says Pedersen.

Facts

The patients in the study were predominantly in their 60s, and three in four of the participants were men.

Positive affect was found to be most common in well-educated men who had a job.

“Our data may not be sufficiently solid to warrant intervention of the symptoms of anxiety and depression, because the positive patients lived longer regardless of their level of these more negative symptoms.”

Thygesen adds that the new study is, nevertheless, more solid than other studies in this field, as it is based on register data:

“With this data, we have been able to examine and monitor all the patients on the parameters we were interested in."

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Read the Danish version of this article at videnskab.dk

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