Optimism versus pessimism as predictors of physical health: A comprehensive reanalysis of dispositional optimism research

Michael Scheier, Joshua Swanson, Meaghan Barlow, Joel Greenhouse, Carsten Wrosch, Hilary Tindle,

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Psychologist
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

© American Psychological Association, 2020. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at: https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000666

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Optimism versus pessimism as predictors of physical health: A comprehensive reanalysis of dispositional optimism research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Scheier, M., Swanson, J., Barlow, M., Greenhouse, J., Wrosch, C., Tindle, H. (2020). Optimism versus pessimism as predictors of physical health: A comprehensive reanalysis of dispositional optimism research. American Psychologist. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000666