Holistic Health Show with Carl Helvie logoIn 1993, Carver et al studied how coping mediates the effect of optimism on distress. Fifty nine breast cancer patients were studied and reported on their overall optimism about life and recent coping responses and distress levels at the following times; at diagnosis, 1 day presurgery, 10 days postsurgery, and at 3-, 6-, and 12-mo follow-ups.  Results showed that optimism related inversely to distress at each point, even controlling for prior distress. Acceptance, positive reframing, and use of religion were the most common coping reactions; denial and behavioral disengagement were the least common reactions. Acceptance and the use of humor prospectively predicted lower distress; denial and disengagement predicted more distress. Path analyses suggested that several coping reactions played mediating roles in the effect of optimism on distress.

In 2006, deMoors et al studied situational and dispositional optimism to determine if they were protective against dimensions of distress and aspects of health-related quality of life (HQoL) in patients with ovarian cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Researchers also evaluated whether optimism predicted a decrease in cancer antigen (CA) 125 levels during treatment. Ninety women with epithelial ovarian cancer were evaluated at the beginning and end of chemotherapy. Optimism, distress, and HQoL were measured by self-reporting and CA 125 levels were obtained from patients’ medical charts. Researchers found that optimism was inversely associated with distress and positively associated with health related quality of life HQoL in patients with ovarian cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Higher levels of dispositional optimism at the start of chemotherapy were associated with a greater decline in patients’ CA 125 during treatment.

In 2010, a study by Novotny et al studied the importance of lung cancer patient’s outlook relates to health behavior and health status. Previous research had found a mind/body in that those with a pessimistic outlook had more negative health behaviors. This retrospective study included 534 adults diagnosed with lung cancer who had previously completed a MMPI about 18 years before receiving their lung cancer diagnosis between 1997 and 2006. The Optimism-Pessimism scale (PSM) of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) that had previously been given to the lung cancer patients was used  to identified pessimistic and non-pessimistic or optimistic personality styles among patients. Results showed that lung cancer patients (both women and men) classified as having an optimistic attitude survived an average of six months longer compared with the those having a pessimistic attitude. Five-year survival rates for the two groups were 32.9 percent for non-pessimists and 21.1 percent for pessimists. Furthermore, the relationship was independent of smoking status, cancer stage, treatment, comorbidities, age and gender. The researcher said:  “This six-month potential benefit related to an optimistic attitude is more impressive when one considers that the median survival time for this patient population with lung cancer is less than one year,”