Psychological resources, positive illusions, and health

Am Psychol. 2000 Jan;55(1):99-109. doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.55.1.99.


Psychological beliefs such as optimism, personal control, and a sense of meaning are known to be protective of mental health. Are they protective of physical health as well? The authors present a program of research that has tested the implications of cognitive adaptation theory and research on positive illusions for the relation of positive beliefs to disease progression among men infected with HIV. The investigations have revealed that even unrealistically optimistic beliefs about the future may be health protective. The ability to find meaning in the experience is also associated with a less rapid course of illness. Taken together, the research suggests that psychological beliefs such as meaning, control, and optimism act as resources, which may not only preserve mental health in the context of traumatic or life-threatening events but be protective of physical health as well.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Fantasy*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Mental Health*
  • Personality*