Optimists and happy people are healthier overall, enjoying lower blood pressure and less depression and anxiety, among other measures, new research on college students suggests.
The findings, published in the Biomedical Journal of Scientific and Technical Research, suggest that universities should creatively design wellness programmes and centres that dynamically integrate body, mind and spirit into a seamless unit.
College students generally suffer high rates of anxiety and depression and often neglect physical self-care and exercise.
To researchers from the University of Michigan and Fudan University in China set out to learn the extent to which body mass index (BMI) and positive outlook affect the physical and mental health of college students in China’s Fudan University.
The study showed that a positive outlook and BMI both contributed significantly to good health, said Weiyun Chen, Associate Professor at University of Michigan.
The researchers asked 925 students to rate four indicators of psychological well-being — hope, gratitude, life satisfaction and subjective happiness.
They also calculated students’ BMI based on self-reported body weight and height.
To assess physical and mental health, the researchers asked students various questions about their sleep quality and how often they felt healthy, energised, worthless, fidgety, anxious or depressed.
Taken together, the four psychological variables and BMI accounted for 41 per cent of the total variance in health, Chen said.
Individually, subjective happiness had the most significant impact, followed by hope, and then BMI, the study showed.