Optimism-promoting intervention effective in increasing optimism and decreasing anxiety and depression in cardiac patients

New, joined Iranian-American research has found a group-based optimism training program to be an effective, acceptable and feasible way to increase optimism in patients with heart disease, which in turns could improve their prospects of positive health outcomes.

What if optimism isn’t just an unmodifiable character trait, but a trait that can be actively targeted by interventions? That’s exactly what researchers from Payame Noor University in Teheran, Harvard medical school in Boston and the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences showed with their research, testing the effectiveness of a group-based optimism training program in outpatients with heart disease.

The intervention, designed by research team leader GR Nikrahan, consists of sixteen exercises spread out over 8 group-sessions. Each session consists of two parts: in the first part, attendance is recorded, homework is collected and participated rate the previous sessions’ exercises. Afterwards, the participants engage in a group discussion about the previous exercises and their feelings of optimism. In the second part,  the interventionists explain the exercises for the next session and facilitate a group discussion in which participants discuss how they will execute these exercises and how they could overcome any possible barriers.

The optimism intervention group scored significantly higher in optimism, measured by the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R ) and also showed lower ratings of anxiety and depression, measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, compared to the control group that didn’t perform the intervention.

The finding that optimism can potentially be increased by optimism-trainings such as the group-based optimism training program is exciting and could see such trainings become a regular part of heart patient revalidation or aftercare. 

Reference: Mohammadi, N., Aghayousefi, A., Nikrahan, G. R., Adams, C. N., Alipour, A., Sadeghi, M., … & Huffman, J. C. (2018). A randomized trial of an optimism training intervention in patients with heart disease. General Hospital Psychiatry51, 46-53.

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