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Positive Affect Predicts Lower Risk of AIDS Mortality

Judith Tedlie Moskowitz
University of California, San Francisco

Published in 'Psychosomatic Medicine', 65, 620-626, 2003

The following study tested the association between positive affect and mortality in a sample of 407 men who tested positive for the HIV virus.  Data was collected every six months over a maximum period of 7.5 years.  At each follow-up period, participants completed a self-reported scale assessing their moods over the previous 7 days, which included Items such as, 'I felt hopeful about the future', 'I was happy', and 'I enjoyed life'.  Of the 407 participants, 222 men died over the course of the study.
The findings indicated that participant's who had higher positive affect scores, had a significantly lower risk of death from AIDS compared to those who had lower positive affect scores.  The relationship held even when illness progression was taken into account.  However, elevated scores for other sub-scales, such as negative affect, somatic, and interpersonal measures, were not associated with risk of mortality when the effect of illness progression was statistically controlled.  'active ingredient' in the association of scores on the mood scale and mortality in this sample of HIV positive males.  Furthermore, she argues that the different impact of positive and negative affect on mortality provides evidence that positive and negative emotions are not simply opposite extremes on a continuum, as it seems possible for positive affect to occur even in the presence of elevated levels of negative affect.  
The ability to consistently maintain positive affect, regardless of levels of negative affect, seems to be key to living longer with HIV.  Therefore, in terms of the impact of emotion on physical health, Moskowitz suggested that interventions should focus on increasing opportunities to experience positive emotions rather than decreasing negative emotions.

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