Recent research suggests pessimistic orientation is associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length (LTL). However, this is the first study to look not only at effects of pessimistic orientation on average LTL at multiple time points, but also at effects on the rate of change in LTL over time.
Participants were older men from the VA Normative Aging Study (n=490). The life orientation test (LOT) was used to measure optimistic and pessimistic orientations at study baseline, and relative LTL by telomere to single copy gene ratio (T:S ratio) was obtained repeatedly over the course of the study (1999-2008). A total of 1010 observations were included in the analysis. Linear mixed effect models with a random subject intercept were used to estimate associations.
Higher pessimistic orientation scores were associated with shorter average LTL (percent difference by 1-SD increase in pessimistic orientation (95% CI): -3.08 (-5.62, -0.46)), and the finding was maintained after adjusting for the higher likelihood that healthier individuals return for follow-up visits (-3.44 (-5.95, -0.86)). However, pessimistic orientation scores were not associated with rate of change in LTL over time. No associations were found between overall optimism and optimistic orientation subscale scores and LTL.
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Higher pessimistic orientation scores were associated with shorter LTL in older men. While there was no evidence that pessimistic orientation was associated with rate of change in LTL over time, higher levels of pessimistic orientation were associated with shorter LTL at baseline and this association persisted over time.