Hopeful attitude may improve stroke survival

Last Updated: 2001-07-06 13:20:16 EDT (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Stroke patients who feel pessimistic or hopeless about their recovery may die sooner than their more optimistic counterparts, researchers report in the July issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

According to data from a study of 372 stroke survivors, those who said they still felt helpless 6 months after the stroke were 58% more likely to die within 3 to 5 years compared with those who had more hopeful attitudes.

"A causal relationship is biologically plausible, although mechanisms remain speculative," Dr. S. C. Lewis of Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, and colleagues comment. Furthermore, they say, there is no evidence that a patient's attitude toward stroke can be improved.

A patient's general mood, level of anxiety, depression or "fighting spirit" did not significantly influence survival. About one fifth of patients died within 3 years of the initial interview.

The findings support a growing body of research into the link between attitude and health. One recent study found that breast cancer patients who felt the most helpless and hopeless were more likely to die within 5 years. Other research has linked optimism with a longer life in general and with a slower progression of symptoms among men who are HIV-infected.

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