Optimists vs pessimists: survival rate among medical patients over a 30-year period

Mayo Clin Proc. 2000 Feb;75(2):140-3. doi: 10.4065/75.2.140.


Objective: To examine explanatory style (how people explain life events) as a risk factor for early death, using scores from the Optimism-Pessimism scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI).

Subjects and methods: A total of 839 patients completed the MMPI between 1962 and 1965 as self-referred general medical patients. Thirty years later, the vital status of each of these patients was ascertained.

Results: Of the 839 patients, 124 were classified as optimistic, 518 as mixed, and 197 as pessimistic. Follow-up was available for 723 patients. Among these, a 10-point T-score increase on the Optimism-Pessimism scale (e.g., more pessimistic) was associated with a 19% increase in the risk of mortality.

Conclusion: A pessimistic explanatory style, as measured by the Optimism-Pessimism scale of the MMPI, is significantly associated with mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • MMPI*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate* / trends
  • Temperament*
  • United States / epidemiology