Optimism and depression as predictors of physical and mental health functioning: the Normative Aging Study

Ann Behav Med. 2000 Spring;22(2):127-30. doi: 10.1007/BF02895776.


Dispositional optimism has been linked in previous studies to better health outcomes. We sought to examine the independent associations of dispositional optimism and depressive symptoms with physical and mental functioning in a cohort of healthy middle-aged and older men. The study was conducted among 659 subjects in the Veterans Administration (VA) Normative Aging Study. Dispositional optimism and depressive symptomatology were measured in 1991 and 1990, respectively, by the Life Orientation Test and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies--Depression Scale (CES-D). The dependent variables, functioning and well-being, were measured in 1992 by the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36). In multivariate regression models, optimism was associated with higher levels of general health perceptions, vitality, and mental health, and lower levels of bodily pain, but not to physical functioning, social functioning, or role limitations due to physical or emotional problems. Depressive symptomatology was associated with reduced levels of functioning across all SF-36 domains. The findings for optimism and depression were statistically significant after mutual adjustment in multivariate regression models. Optimism and depression are independent predictors of functional status among aging men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attitude*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Self Disclosure
  • Temperament*