You've gotta know when to fold 'em: goal disengagement and systemic inflammation in adolescence

Psychol Sci. 2007 Sep;18(9):773-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01977.x.


The notion that persistence is essential for success and happiness is deeply embedded in popular and scientific writings. However, when people are faced with situations in which they cannot realize a key life goal, the most adaptive response for mental and physical health may be to disengage from that goal. This project followed 90 adolescents over the course of 1 year. Capacities for managing unattainable goals were assessed at baseline, and concentrations of the inflammatory molecule C-reactive protein (CRP) were quantified at that time, as well as 6 and 12 months later. To the extent that subjects had difficulties disengaging from unattainable goals, they displayed increasing concentrations of CRP over the follow-up. This association was independent of potential confounds, including adiposity, smoking, and depression. Because excessive inflammation contributes to a variety of adverse medical outcomes, these findings suggest that in some contexts, persistence may actually undermine well-being and good health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Aspirations, Psychological
  • Attitude
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Goals*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • C-Reactive Protein