Be Well

Trust me -- the glass is half full

March 9, 2009
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Women who look on the bright side of life have longer and healthier lives than their pessimistic peers, while women who tend not to trust other people die sooner than their less cynical counterparts, a large study of attitudes and health found.

Dr. Hilary Tindle of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and her colleagues analyzed information gathered from more than 97,000 women who did not have heart disease or cancer when they joined the Women's Health Initiative, the massive national trial known for its conclusions on hormone therapy. The women, 50 to 74 years old, answered questionnaires on their attitudes at the start of the trial. Optimists expected good things to happen and cynically hostile women were extremely mistrustful of other people, according to survey definitions.

After eight years, optimistic women had a 14 percent lower risk of dying from any cause than their pessimistic counterparts, according to research Tindle presented last week. Women who scored high on cynical hostility had a 16 percent higher risk of death than their counterparts. These differences were more extreme in black women: optimists had a 44 percent lower risk of cancer-related death and cynically hostile women had a 142 percent higher risk of cancer death.

Tindle said in an interview the study does not say that attitudes cause good health or illness, but the association between them deserves more study, particularly because it held true even when age, education, and income level were factored in.

BOTTOM LINE: Optimistic women were healthier and lived longer lives than pessimists, while cynical hostility was independently associated with higher death rates.
CAUTIONS: The results about black women need to be confirmed in larger numbers.
WHERE TO FIND IT: American Psychosomatic Society's 67th annual meeting


Flu vaccine: shots vs. sprays

Flu shots, which contain an inactivated form of the virus, may have more benefit in some populations than the live virus vaccine administered by nasal spray, a new study finds.

Since the 1950s, flu vaccination has proved to be an efficacious public health measure that reduces illness by preparing the immune system for a possible virus attack. While shots and nasal sprays both work, it's been unclear whether one might be more effective in specific populations, such as the military, where conditions can be crowded and stressful.

Researchers from the Armed Forces Surveillance Center set out to find the answer. The research group looked at more than a million US active-duty, non-recruit military service members between the ages of 17 and 49 from 2004 to 2007. Subjects received the flu shot or the nasal spray - or remained unvaccinated.

Researchers found that personnel who received the flu shot, with the inactivated virus, had the lowest incidence of influenza and pneumonia related health-care visits compared to those who got the live form of the virus through the nasal spray. However, the two forms were roughly equivalent when given to personnel who had never before been immunized.

"Our data suggests that people who get yearly vaccinations may benefit from the inactivated virus rather than the live virus," said researcher Dr. Zhong Wang.

BOTTOM LINE: The inactivated virus used in flu shots may provide better protection in highly immunized populations, like military members, than the live-virus-containing nasal spray.
CAUTIONS: The decision on which form of vaccine to administer is a complicated multifactorial decision best made by a physician.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, March 4, 2009.


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