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Optimists vs Pessimists: Survival Rate Among Medical Patients Over a 30-Year Period


      To examine explanatory style (how people explain life events) as a risk factor for early death, using scores from the Optimism-Pessimism scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI).

      Subjects and Methods

      A total of 839 patients completed the MMPI between 1962 and 1965 as self-referred general medical patients. Thirty years later, the vital status of each of these patients was ascertained.


      Of the 839 patients, 124 were classified as optimistic, 518 as mixed, and 197 as pessimistic. Follow-up was available for 723 patients. Among these, a 10-point T-score increase on the Optimism-Pessimism scale (eg, more pessimistic) was associated with a 19% increase in the risk of mortality.


      A pessimistic explanatory style, as measured by the Optimism-Pessimism scale of the MMPI, is significantly associated with mortality.
      CAVE (Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanation), MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), PSM (Optimism-Pessimism [scale or score])
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      Linked Article

      • Optimism, Pessimism, and Mortality
        Mayo Clinic ProceedingsVol. 75Issue 2
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          Maruta and colleagues1 report in this issue of Proceedings quite a remarkable finding: that the new Optimism-Pessimism scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) predicts no less a dependent variable than death itself. The finding is unusually important for 2 reasons: First, the obvious one is predicting a “hard” measure like mortality from a “mere” paper-and-pencil psychological construct. The second is more subtle, and it comes from the long history of this project.
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      • Correction
        Mayo Clinic ProceedingsVol. 75Issue 3
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          In the article by Maruta et al entitled “Optimists vs Pessimists: Survival Rate Among Medical Patients Over a 30-Year Period,” published in the February 2000 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Mayo Clin Proc. 2000; 75: 140-143), an error occurred in the “Discussion.” The last sentence of the third paragraph should read as follows: “The multivariate modeling we performed estimated that mortality risk increased 19% for every 10-point T-score increase.”
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