Emotional Vitality May Protect Against Heart Diseaseby Nicole Obert | March 3, 2008
While a number of studies have shown that negative social behaviors and emotional states tend to correlate with a lower overall level of physical health, few have sought to illuminate a link between emotional vitality and physical well-being. A recent study provides evidence that there may, indeed, be a connection. Six thousand twenty-five men and women were surveyed and followed for fifteen years; results showed that those with higher levels of emotional vitality were less likely to develop coronary heart disease (CHD).
One of the compounding factors in the study is the correlation between emotional well-being and positive lifestyle choices, such as exercising and choosing not to smoke. Similarly, lower emotional vitality levels tend to be found in smokers and people with higher BMIs. The researchers identified and adjusted for these variables, and still found a positive relationship between emotional vitality and decreased incidence of CHD.
Emotional vitality was defined by the researchers as “a sense of positive energy, the ability to effectively regulate emotion and behavior, and positive well-being, which includes feeling engaged and interested in life.” Past research has shown that measures of emotional vitality tend to remain very consistent over time. Because researchers were able to show a positive effect of emotional vitality on incidence of CHD, even when factoring out the associated positive lifestyle choices, indications remain that emotional vitality exerts a positive physiological effect on the body. Identifying the pathways by which emotional well-being affects and protects the body may prove to be a promising and productive area of research.
Because emotional vitality is known to be a highly stable characteristic, early intervention may be a critical link in contributing to overall well-being; that is, preventing depressive behaviors from dominating one’s sense of self and energy may not only lead to more positive psychological outcomes, but also a more positive physiological well-being. In addition, re-training the brain to enhance emotional vitality may also be a critical component in combating major health issues.
Kubzansky, L.D., Thurston, R.C. (2007). Emotional Vitality and Incident Coronary Heart Disease: Benefits of Healthy Psychological Functioning. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64(12), 1393-1401. DOI: 10.1001/archpsyc.64.12.1393
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