Optimism May Protect Teens From Depression

Positive thinking may also impact substance abuse and social behavior

THURSDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Optimistic thinking may provide protection against some adolescent health risks, including depressive symptoms and substance use, according to a study published online Jan. 10 in Pediatrics.

George C. Patton, M.D., of the Royal Children's Hospital in Parkville, Australia, and colleagues assessed 5,634 students, initially aged 12 to 14 years, in a longitudinal study from 2003 to 2005. The adolescents were evaluated for their level of optimism, and assessed for presence of the study outcomes: emotional problems (depression or anxiety), substance use, and antisocial behaviors.

The researchers found that the association between optimism and each of the study outcomes were strongly protective, with the exception of substance abuse in boys. The least optimistic adolescents were twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms (odds ratio, 0.54) than the most optimistic adolescents. Highly optimistic adolescents also had slightly lower tendency to abuse heavy substances and display antisocial behavior. After adjusting for differences in psychological style, optimism was not found to prevent anxiety.

"The presence of protective effects across a range of adolescent health outcomes provides support for promoting an optimistic thinking style in adolescents. Yet, a focus on optimism alone, without addressing other aspects of cognitive, interpersonal, and emotional style, seems unlikely to have large effects," the authors write.

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