Optimism, pessimism, and health biomarkers in older couples

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Studies have demonstrated the importance of optimism in predicting perceived general health. However, the handful of studies focusing on cardiovascular biomarkers show inconsistent effects. Additionally, no study examined whether spousal levels of optimism and pessimism affect an individual’s biological markers of cardiovascular health. Thus, our objectives were to examine whether partners’ optimism and pessimism affect individual biological markers, differentiating between between-dyad associations and within-dyad predictive processes. Methods: Three waves of the Health and Retirement Study collected in 2006, 2010, and 2014 were used to test actor and partner effects of optimism and pessimism on C-reactive protein (CRP) and high-density lipoprotein. Multilevel longitudinal actor–partner models were used to examine the contribution of a partner’s optimism and pessimism to each biomarker, adjusting for respondent's age, sex, depression, body mass index, daily activity levels, and a summary score of respondent's doctor-diagnosed chronic conditions. Results: Partners’ pessimism and optimism levels were moderately associated. Results for within-person effects were all non-significant, both within and across waves. Associations at the between-person level were also non-significant, with the exception of a positive association between husbands’ pessimism and their own CRP, and husbands’ optimism and their wives’ CRP. Conclusions: Results suggest that optimism and pessimism may not play a pertinent role in within variability of biomarkers of cardiovascular diseases and have a minor role in predicting to between-person variability of biomarkers of cardiovascular diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1073
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 British Psychological Society


  • biomarkers
  • couples
  • health
  • older adults
  • optimism
  • pessimism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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