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Optimism Could Help Kids Keep Depression at Bay
Date:1/11/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Here's a reason to try to change your kid's attitude: The most optimistic adolescents may be somewhat less likely to be depressed than their peers.

Researchers also have found a slight link between optimism and less heavy drug abuse and bad behavior.

There are caveats. The new research, on kids in Australia, doesn't prove that optimism directly causes kids to be less depressed. Other factors could explain things. The study also suggests that the most optimistic kids were not able to avoid having as many bad things happen in their lives as more pessimistic kids.

"Optimistic kids do better in avoiding emotional and behavioral problems during the teens, but it in no way makes them immune to setbacks," said the study's lead author, Dr. George C. Patton, of Australia's Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. "There are a whole lot of other skills and experiences that are also important in getting through life."

The study is only the latest in a series of examinations of optimism. "It's been associated with decreased risk of depression, heart attack and death, even after other important risk factors -- like age, smoking and cholesterol -- have been taken into account," said Dr. Hilary Tindle, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh's Division of General Internal Medicine.

The new study, published online Jan. 10 and in the February print issue of Pediatrics, examined optimism in 5,634 children who began taking part in the research when they were 12 to 14 years old.

The kids were asked about how they "viewed the future, ... the world as it currently is and themselves," said Patton, a professor with the Australia hospital's Centre for Adolescent Health. The kids who were less optimistic generally were recognizing positive things about the world or themselves "rarely or only some of the time," he said.

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