Optimism and Health
by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
The teenage years can be filled with drama and discontent, but teens who manage to remain happy and optimistic report better overall health as adults.
Researchers at Northwestern University found that teens with a positive outlook on life were less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, drug use, and eating unhealthy foods as they made the transition into young adulthood. A positive outlook on life includes feelings of happiness, enjoyment of life, hopefulness for the future, good self-esteem and a sense of social acceptance.
The study,* which involved more than 10,000 young people, showed that promoting and nurturing a sense of positive wellbeing of teens significantly improved their long-term health.
It’s not always easy to determine what makes your teen happy, but it’s worth investigating. Moms and dads who help their teens find joy, optimism, and acceptance might be able to sidestep some of the scarier issues, including drug use and underage drinking.
If you’ve fallen out of touch with your teen, all is not lost. Ask for a do-over. And then start by being there, and by listening, and by modeling the behaviors you’d like to see in your child: Happiness, enjoyment of life, and optimism about the future.
*Lindsay T. Hoyt, P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Thomas W. McDade, Emma K. Adam. Positive Youth, Healthy Adults: Does Positive Well-being in Adolescence Predict Better Perceived Health and Fewer Risky Health Behaviors in Young Adulthood? Journal of Adolescent Health, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.05.002