Optimism, coping, and health: assessment and implications of generalized outcome expectancies

Health Psychol. 1985;4(3):219-47. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.4.3.219.


This article describes a scale measuring dispositional optimism, defined in terms of generalized outcome expectancies. Two preliminary studies assessed the scale's psychometric properties and its relationships with several other instruments. The scale was then used in a longitudinal study of symptom reporting among a group of undergraduates. Specifically, respondents were asked to complete three questionnaires 4 weeks before the end of a semester. Included in the questionnaire battery was the measure of optimism, a measure of private self-consciousness, and a 39-item physical symptom checklist. Subjects completed the same set of questionnaires again on the last day of class. Consistent with predictions, subjects who initially reported being highly optimistic were subsequently less likely to report being bothered by symptoms (even after correcting for initial symptom-report levels) than were subjects who initially reported being less optimistic. This effect tended to be stronger among persons high in private self-consciousness than among those lower in private self-consciousness. Discussion centers on other health related applications of the optimism scale, and the relationships between our theoretical orientation and several related theories.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Set, Psychology
  • Social Perception