Document Type


Publication Date



Objective: Research suggests that positive psychological well-being is associated with cardiovascular health. However, much of this research uses elderly samples and has not determined the pathways by which psychological well-being influences cardiovascular disease or whether effects are similar for men and women. This study investigates the association between two aspects of well-being (emotional vitality and optimism) and coronary heart disease (CHD) in a sample of middle-aged men and women, and considers potential mediating factors.

Method: Between 1991 and 1994, well-being and coronary risk factors were assessed among 7,942 individuals without a prior cardiovascular event from the Whitehall II cohort. Incident CHD (fatal CHD, first nonfatal myocardial infarction, or first definite angina) was tracked during 5 person-years of follow-up.

Results: Positive psychological well-being was associated with reduced risk of CHD with an apparent threshold effect. Relative to people with the lowest levels of well-being, those with the highest levels had minimally adjusted hazard ratios of 0.74, 95% confidence interval [0.55, 0.98] for emotional vitality and 0.73, 95% confidence interval [0.54, 0.99] for optimism. Moreover, the association was strong for both genders and was only weakly attenuated when accounting for ill-being. Neither health-related behaviors nor biological factors explained these associations.

Conclusions: Positive psychological well-being was associated with a modest, but consistent reduced risk of incident CHD. The relationship was comparable for men and women, and was maintained after controlling for cardiovascular risk factors and ill-being. Additional research is needed to identify underlying mechanisms and investigate whether interventions to increase well-being may enhance cardiovascular health.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Health Psychology, volume 30, issue 3, 2011 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI: 10.1037/a0023124.

This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.


American Psychological Association



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.