Have you ever had something bad happen to you and a friend, family member, or colleague tells you to “cheer up,” “think positive,” or “look on the bright side?”

Can you remember how you took that piece of information at the time?

Well, it turns out they may be saving your life.

According to data published from Duke University in 2011, one factor can potentially predict survival outcomes following a coronary event – this factor is hope.

The study mentioned followed 2,818 patients after undergoing cardiac catheterization, a procedure in which a cardiologist threads a wire into a patient’s heart arteries to assess for blockages.  As patients were being discharged from the hospital researchers asked them to rate their expectations for recovery on a 1-4 scale with 1 being the least hopeful and 4 being the most hopeful.  

Well the results speak for themselves.  During the 16+ year study those who rated themselves a 4 at discharge were almost twice as likely to be alive at the end of the study trial as those who were less confident in their expectations for the future.  The most important aspect?  This held true even after factoring in things like depression, comorbidities, age and disease severity.

The real question is has this been replicated?  The answer is yes, even before this landmark paper in 2011.  The University of Toronto identified that 15 of 16 published studies on patients’ recovery expectations found an association between better recovery and better clinical outcomes.

So the next time you are experiencing something negative in your life just ask yourself: What would I tell my closest friend?  In doing so, you may actually live long enough to tell them.


Barefoot, John et al “Recovery expectations and Long-Term Prognosis of Patients with Coronary Artery Disease.” Archives of Internal Medicine 171, no.10 (2011)

Mondloch, M.V. et al “Does How You Do Depend on How You Think You’ll Do? A Systematic Review of the Evidence for a Relation between Patient’s Recovery Expectations and Health Outcomes.” CMAJ 165, no.2 (2001)

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