Magazine article Science News

Sniffle-Busting Personalities: Positive Mood Guards against Getting Colds

Magazine article Science News

Sniffle-Busting Personalities: Positive Mood Guards against Getting Colds

Article excerpt

People with generally positive outlooks show greater resistance to developing colds than do individuals who rarely revel in upbeat feelings, a new investigation finds.

Frequently basking in positive emotions defends against colds regardless of how often one experiences negative emotions, say psychologist Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and his colleagues. They suspect that positive emotions stimulate symptom-fighting substances.

"We need to take more seriously the possibility that a positive emotional style is a major player in disease risk," Cohen says.

In a study published in 2003, his group exposed 334 healthy adults to one of two rhinoviruses via nasal drops. Those who displayed generally positive outlooks, including feelings of liveliness, cheerfulness, and being at ease, were least likely to develop cold symptoms. Unlike the negatively inclined participants, they reported fewer cold symptoms than were detected in medical exams.

The new study, which appears in the November/December Psychosomatic Medicine, replicates those results and rules out the possibility that psychological traits related to a positive emotional style, rather than the emotions themselves, guard against cold symptoms. Those traits include high self-esteem, extroversion, optimism, and a feeling of mastery over one's life.

The latest data also show that among people with a consistently positive mood, well-being doesn't simply reflect physical vigor. All volunteers entered the study in comparably good health.

In that project, Cohen's team interviewed 193 healthy adults by phone each evening for 2 weeks. The participants reported their positive and negative emotions during that day. They then received nasal drops containing a rhinovirus or an influenza virus that causes a coldlike illness. …

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