Posted on Aug 23, 2013, 6 a.m.
Levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, tend to be more stable in people with positive personalities.
The biological connection between a person’s disposition and their ability to regulate stress has been elusive. Joelle Jobin, from Concordia University (Canada), and colleagues explored whether optimism is associated with reduced secretions of cortisol, the stress hormone, among people who perceive stress levels that are higher than their normal average – or higher than the stress levels of other individuals. The researchers tracked 135 older adults for six years, and collected five saliva samples daily from each subject (to monitor cortisol levels). Participants were asked to report on the level of stress they perceived in their day-to-day lives, and identify themselves along a continuum as optimists or pessimists. Each person’s levels were then measured against their personal average. The team observed that the pessimist participants tended to have a higher baseline than optimists; pessimists also had trouble with the biological regulation of their system when they encountered particularly stressful situations. Finding that: “On days where they experience higher than average stress, we see that the pessimists’ stress response is very elevated, and they have trouble bringing their cortisol levels back down. Optimists, by contrast, were protected in these circumstances.” The team submits that these data confirms a relationship between positivity and stress.
Jobin, Joelle; Wrosch, Carsten; Scheier, Michael F. “Associations Between Dispositional Optimism and Diurnal Cortisol in a Community Sample: When Stress Is Perceived as Higher Than Normal.” Health Psychology, May 13, 2013.