Personality variables also appear to moderate the relationship between stress and immunity. Research has suggested that optimism, or the generalized tendency to "look on the bright side of things,'' affects the way in which individuals perceive stressful situations and is associated with better health and positive health outcomes. Optimism has been linked to better physical health, better quality of life following coronary artery surgery, decreased stress in breast cancer patients, and later symptom onset and longer survival time in AIDS patients. An optimistic outlook has also been shown to buffer the immunosuppressive effects of stress.

Situational optimism has been associated with higher immune activity in first-year law students, although many factors can affect this relationship because optimism has been shown to interact with mood and perceived stress to account for immune changes. Characteristics of the stressor may also determine the efficacy of optimism in attenuating stress-related immune changes. Optimism has been shown to buffer the effects of acute stress on immunity, but in response to high levels of persistent distress, optimists have demonstrated more immunosuppres-sion than pessimists. Although optimism may be beneficial for dealing with transient stressors, persistence of distress is inconsistent with the expectations of an optimistic individual and optimists may therefore face difficulties in coping with persistent distress.

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