Relation Between Optimism and Lipids in Midlife

Optimism is linked with healthier behaviors, and lipid profiles are driven, in part, by health behaviors.

This study examines the impact optimism has on serum lipids. The researchers posited that higher levels of optimism would be associated with healthier lipid profiles.

Looking at cross-sectional analyses from the Midlife in the United States study, participants included 990 men and women who were, on average, 55.1 years old. Participants were assessed over a two-day period, where total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were evaluated. The Life Orientation Test-Revised, a six-item assessment, was used to gauge optimism.

Key Findings:

  • Optimism was positively correlated with HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, but was not associated with LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
  • After correcting for cholesterol treatment, original lipid results remained nearly identical to those that adjusted for the average effect of lipid medication.
  • The relationship between optimism and HDL cholesterol was reduced by more than 10 percent when prudent diet, smoking status, and BMI were considered.

More research is needed to better understand the complex ways in which optimism and lipids may be connected. This research, however, suggests that optimism may provide new strategies for improving cardiovascular health.


This study is one in a series supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio to explore Positive Health, an emerging concept that seeks to demonstrate that in addition to health risks, people also have health assets, which can be strengthened to produce a healthier life. These health assets could include biological factors, such as high heart rate variability; subjective factors, such as optimism; and functional factors, such as a stable marriage.