Optimistic explanatory style and dispositional optimism in HIV-infected men

Janice Tomakowsky, Mark A. Lumley*, Norman Markowitz, Cathy Frank

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examined associations of two types of optimism (Peterson and Seligman's optimistic explanatory style and Scheier and Carver's dispositional optimism) with each other as well as with symptoms and immune status among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected men Method: We related both types of optimism to HIV symptoms and to CD4 counts in a cross-sectional study of 78 men, and to change in CD4 counts in a 2-year prospective study of a subsample of these men. Results: Analyses controlled for age, education, employment status, duration since diagnosis, and azidothymidine (AZT) use. The two types of optimism were only minimally related to each other (r=.25). Cross-sectionally, higher levels of both types of optimism were associated with having fewer HIV symptoms, but a more optimistic explanatory style was related to having poorer immune status (lower CD4). Prospectively, an optimistic explanatory style was a substantial predictor of greater decline in CD4 counts after 2 years, after controlling for baseline CD4. Dispositional optimism was unrelated to CD4 counts. Neither health behaviors nor coping strategies mediated these relationships, and the relationships of optimistic explanatory style (and to a lesser extent, dispositional optimism) were independent of negative affectivity. Conclusions: These optimism measures tap different types of optimism, and although both are related to better subjective health in HIV-infected men, an optimistic explanatory style predicts greater decline in immune status over time. This latter relationship may be related to the unique stress and life experiences associated with having HIV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-587
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Coping
  • Dispositional optimism
  • Explanatory style
  • HIV
  • Immune
  • Optimism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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