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Does Your Attitude Affect Your Health?

Believe it or not, a positive attitude affects more than just the number of people who enjoy being around you. Being an optimist versus a pessimist does affect your health -- and even your life expectancy, according to recent research.

Effects on Immunity

Being happy and optimistic appear to boost your immunity, making you less likely to get sick. A study published in 2010 in Psychological Science found that having a positive attitude and being optimistic is associated with increased immunity in first-year law students. Another study published in 2011 in Orvosi Hetilap found that hospitalized children who were given more attention and therefore, happier, showed improvements in immune function.

Risks for Obesity

Having a positive attitude and being happy may help lower your risk for being overweight and obese. A study published in 2010 in Archives of General Psychiatry found that there is a link between obesity and depression -- that obesity boosts your risk of depression, and depression increases your chance of becoming obese. Therefore, happiness and optimism may be one of the keys to healthy weight management.

Considerations for Personal Relationships

Being an optimist can help you build and maintain close relationships with friends and romantic partners. A study published in 2007 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that optimism is associated with happy romantic relationships and that optimistic people maintain more satisfying relationships. These findings are due to, at least in part, to optimists being better able to problem solve cooperatively with people they are in relationships with.

Effects on Mental Health

Having a positive attitude also affects your mental health status, according to a review published in 2010 in Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health. Authors of this review suggest that optimism is associated with fewer depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts -- and that optimistic people are better able to cope with stressful situations.

Overall Health and Life Expectancy

Being optimistic, happy, and satisfied with your life appears to be associated with an increased life expectancy, according to a study published in 2012 in Twin Research and Human Genetics. Researchers who conducted this study note that happier, more optimistic people may be more likely to be socially active, have better social support, exercise more, and be less likely to smoke or abuse alcohol.

An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as and

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