Later life health optimism, pessimism, and realism: Psychosocial contributors and health correlates

Prior research has established positive outcomes of health optimism (appraising one's health as good despite poor objective health (OH)) and negative outcomes of health pessimism (appraising health as poor despite good OH), yet little is known about their contributors. We examined the role of psychosocial factors (life event stress, depression, dispositional optimism, perceived social support) in health realism (appraising health in accordance with OH), optimism and pessimism among 489 older men and women. We then accounted for the psychosocial factors when examining multiple health correlates of health realism, optimism and pessimism. Controlling for age, gender and income, regression results indicate that depression and social support were associated with less health optimism, while dispositional optimism was associated with greater health optimism among those in poor OH. Dispositional optimism was associated with less health pessimism and life event stress was associated with greater pessimism among those in good OH. Beyond the effects of the psychosocial factors, structural equation model results indicate that health optimism was positively associated with healthy behaviours and perceived control over one's health; health pessimism was associated with poorer perceived health care management. Health optimism and pessimism have different psychosocial contributors and health correlates, validating the health congruence approach to later life well-being, health and survival.


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