Positive Outlook Helps

New research shows that older adults who remain optimistic can reverse any negative health issues associated with loneliness. The study examined if thinking positively and avoiding self-blame would keep older adults from getting raised levels of stress hormones and inflammatory biomarkers when they were lonely.

The researchers asked the older people to what extent they felt lonely or isolated during a typical day and then looked it how that impacted them biologically. Using saliva and blood samples, the team saw how much cortisol and C-reactive protein (CRP) the participants produced. Cortisol is responsible for stress-related changes in the body. CRP raises the risk of inflammatory illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The reseachers also measured self-protective strategies with a questionnaire that asked participants to rate such statements as, “Even if my health is in a very difficult condition, I can find something positive in life,” or “When I find it impossible to overcome a health problem, I try not to blame myself.”

The result: Positive thinking helped protect against an increase in cortisol secretion. Four years down the road, additional tests showed the participants’ CRP levels had improved as well.
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