Dispositional optimism and physical health: A long look back, a quick look forward

Michael F. Scheier, Charles S. Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Dispositional optimism is the generalized, relatively stable tendency to expect good outcomes across important life domains. This article provides a representative review of 30 years of research on dispositional optimism and physical well-being. Assessment of optimism is described, along with data regarding its stability. A review of the research linking optimism and physical health is then presented. Included in the review are initial studies suggesting that optimism and physical well-being might be linked as well as more recent, larger scale epidemiological studies that make the point more emphatically. Also considered are potential pathways-behavioral, biological, and social-that might explain these associations. The article concludes with a brief look to the future, describing several issues and questions that still need to be answered. These questions include the relationship of optimism and pessimism to each other (and the implications of that relationship for physical well-being), the origins of optimism and pessimism, and interventions that might be implemented to reduce the negative impact of a pessimistic outlook.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1082-1094
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Behavioral and biological pathways
  • Dispositional optimism
  • Future research
  • Physical health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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