"Is optimism good for your health?" The role of optimism in adolescent life and health

Csaba Hamvai, Bettina F. Piko

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


Many previous studies suggest that optimism (that is, a generalized positive expectancy of the future) is related to better health outcomes, more adaptive coping, and health behaviors. These relationships may have a mutual reinforcing nature. In this study primarily we focus on the health protective nature of optimism in adolescence. In addition, while the health protecting effects of optimism have been already justified, we know much less about the background variables (such as parent - child relationship or socioeconomic status and school-related factors) influencing adolescent dispositional optimism. Previous findings suggest that some social factors, particularly social support may be positively related to optimism. Thus, in the first part of this study, we have examined which social variables of the two major contexts of socialization (family and school) predict optimism. Many investigations revealed that optimism was positively associated with positive health outcomes such as mental health and quality of life. Thus, in the second part of our research we have concentrated on detecting associations between optimism and a set of health variables, namely, depression, self-perceived health (SPH), satisfaction with life (SWL) and substance use, such as alcohol consumption, smoking, and drug use. 881 secondary school students in Szeged, Hungary completed a battery of questionnaires that contained items on optimism (measured by the Life Orientation Test, LOT), health-compromising and health-enhancing behaviors as well as family and school-related protective factors. Results indicated that different forms of family support, parents' schooling, socioeconomic status (SES), and being happy with school significantly but slightly predicted optimism. Furthermore, optimism was positively correlated with satisfaction with life and self-perceived health and negatively with depression. In terms of substance use, optimism proved to be a protective factor against adolescent substance use except for smoking. In addition optimism was also a significant predictor of adolescent regular physical activity and diet control. We may conclude that findings support a mutual, reinforcing relationship between optimism and positive health outcomes. The negative correlation between optimism and depression is in consonance with previous results demonstrating the stress buffering nature of optimism in adolescent life. These findings are discussed in the light of the health protective power of optimism.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of Optimism
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781617283109
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2010


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

Hamvai, C., & Piko, B. F. (2010). "Is optimism good for your health?" The role of optimism in adolescent life and health. In Psychology of Optimism (pp. 123-143). Nova Science Publishers, Inc..