The researchers figured that if everyone in the study had low levels of optimism, "the number of new cases of depression would rise by 32 percent in any year," Patton said. "That is a pretty big effect."
But what can be done with this information? Should kids take classes in optimism? Not quite, Patton said.
"Learning to get things in perspective and put yourself in the shoes of others are more realistic aims than simply trying to teach your teenager to always be positive about everything."
Tindle, the Pittsburgh researcher, said the attitudes regarding optimism and pessimism that form in early life may play a big role in the choices that adults make about their health. If that's the case, she said, it might be worthwhile to teach kids about how to look at the world. But for now, "no one knows all the nitty-gritty of how such a program could be logistically rolled out," Tindle said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on understanding teens' emotional health.
SOURCES: George C. Patton, M.D., professor, adolescent health research, Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia; Hilary Tindle, M.D., M.P.H., researcher, Center for Research on Health Care, division of general internal medicine, University of Pittsburgh; February 201l, Pediatrics, online, Jan. 10, 2011
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