The combination of less positive and more negative expectations for the future (i.e., lower optimism and higher pessimism) increases risk for disease and early mortality. We tested the possibility that expectancies might influence health outcomes by altering the rate of biological aging, specifically of the immune system (immunosenescence). However, no studies to date have examined associations between optimism or pessimism and indicators of immunosenescence such as leukocyte telomere length (TL) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels. We investigated whether dispositional tendencies towards optimism and pessimism were associated with TL and IL-6 in a sample of 36 healthy post-menopausal women. Multiple regression analyses where optimism and pessimism were entered simultaneously, and chronological age and caregiver status were controlled, indicated that pessimism was independently associated with shorter TL (β = -.68, p = .001) and higher IL-6 concentrations (β = .50, p = .02). In contrast, optimism was not independently associated with either measure of immunosenescence. These findings suggest that dispositional pessimism may increase IL-6 and accelerate rate of telomere shortening. Mechanistic causal relationships between these parameters need to be investigated.
- Telomere length
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience