He added, "It's hard to make any firm conclusion from a single study, but it's one more piece of evidence that what we think actually matters, in some very important ways."
So what's going on in the body? If there is a link between attitude, emotions and health, how does it work? Dr. Hilary Tindle, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Health Care, has several theories.
One is that "happier or more positive, hopeful people tend to live healthier," she said. And hopeful people may react in healthier ways to stress, helping them to recover more quickly.
Also, "more positive individuals are also more likely to adhere to medical therapy and advice, and therefore may be healthier on that basis," Tindle added.
In a study of women published last August, Tindle found that optimism appears to have an effect on the heart and longevity. "Optimistic women had more stable risk profiles, with less high blood pressure and diabetes. They didn't smoke as much and tended to exercise more. So their lower risk might just be associated with living healthier," she said.
Or, she noted, a woman's outlook on life might affect how she responds to stress. Pessimism and cynical hostility might lead to higher blood pressure, higher heart rate and other physical risk factors, Tindle reported.
Learn about how stress affects the body from the Nemours Foundation.
SOURCES: Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Ph.D., professor, department of psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington; Hilary Tindle, M.D., M.P.H., researcher, Center for Research on Health Care, division of general internal medicine, University of Pittsburgh; James E. Maddux, Ph.D., professor, department of psychology, George Maso
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