Is dispositional optimism or dispositional pessimism predictive of ideal cardiovascular health? The Young Finns Study

Psychol Health. 2015;30(10):1221-39. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2015.1041394. Epub 2015 May 18.


Objective: We examined the independent association between dispositional optimism compared to dispositional pessimism and ideal cardiovascular health (defined by the American Heart Association).

Design: A prospective design with a study sample of 1113 participants aged 24-39 years from the longitudinal Young Finns Study.

Main outcome measures: Ideal cardiovascular health (comprised of seven ideal cardiovascular health metrics) was measured in 2001. The ideal cardiovascular health metrics were reassessed in 2007.

Results: Low pessimism rather than high optimism was a better predictor of ideal cardiovascular health in 2007. When examining the association between optimism and pessimism and the seven ideal cardiovascular health metrics in 2007 (BMI, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, total cholesterol and plasma glucose), low pessimism predicted non-smoking status, ideal physical activity and eating a healthy diet, while high optimism was associated with eating a healthy diet.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that low pessimism rather than high optimism is associated with ideal cardiovascular health, especially with health behaviours such as not smoking, being physically active and eating a healthy diet. Socio-economic status was the potential mediating or confounding factor. Future studies should examine the differential meaning of the optimism/pessimism concepts to further clarify their relation to health outcomes.

Keywords: epidemiology; ideal cardiovascular health; optimism; pessimism; prospective study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology*
  • Diet / psychology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Personality*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Young Adult