Optimism and pessimism are related to different components of the stress response in healthy older people

Sara Puig-Perez*, Carolina Villada, Matias M. Pulopulos, Mercedes Almela, Vanesa Hidalgo, Alicia Salvador

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Some personality traits have key importance for health because they can affect the maintenance and evolution of different disorders with a high prevalence in older people, including stress pathologies and diseases. In this study we investigated how two relevant personality traits, optimism and pessimism, affect the psychophysiological response of 72 healthy participants (55 to 76. years old) exposed to either a psychosocial stress task (Trier Social Stress Test, TSST) or a control task; salivary cortisol, heart rate (HR) and situational appraisal were measured. Our results showed that optimism was related to faster cortisol recovery after exposure to stress. Pessimism was not related to the physiological stress response, but it was associated with the perception of the stress task as more difficult. Thus, higher optimism was associated with better physiological adjustment to a stressful situation, while higher pessimism was associated with worse psychological adjustment to stress. These results highlight different patterns of relationships, with optimism playing a more important role in the physiological component of the stress response, and pessimism having a greater effect on situational appraisal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-221
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Optimism
  • Pessimism
  • Stress response


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