Date of Award

Summer 8-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Studies and Research

Committee Chair

Kyna Shelley

Committee Chair Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 2

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 2 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 3

Lilian Hill

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 4

Yen To

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Studies and Research


Despite increased awareness of clinical risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), heart disease remains a physical and economic burden to African Americans. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between dispositional optimism, a psychosocial personality trait, and CVD mortality, based on immediate cause of death. A cross-sectional design was used to examine the predictive value of dispositional optimism in CVD mortality concomitant with traditional CVD risk factors. The traditional CVD risk factors of interest consisted of body mass index, waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, total cholesterol, and C-reactive protein. Also, aggregated mortality data for optimists and pessimists were compared to illustrate the distribution of death relative to attitudinal disposition.

A total of 413 Jackson Heart Study (JHS) participants who completed the revised Life Orientation Test (LOT-R) during year 2 of Annual follow-up and had suffered a fatal event before October 2013 contributed toward this effort. The one-factor solution of dispositional optimism was considered for this analysis.

Results showed that dispositional optimism did not significantly improve the predictive ability of traditional CVD risk models in males or females. However, in males, a five-fold increased risk of CVD death was associated with separation from a spouse.Also, females demonstrated a similar risk where household incomes rose above $75,000 per annum. Also based on these data, higher LOT-R scores were significantly associated with all manner of deaths. Optimists were disproportionately represented in this sample; CVD mortality and all-cause mortality were higher for optimists than for pessimists. Finally, dispositional optimism was not a discriminator of traditional clinical CVD risk factors in neither males nor females.

CVD mortality models did not support the combined role of dispositional optimism and traditional CVD risk factors. These results appear to indicate an immaterial influence of dispositional optimism on fatal CVD events in this African American sample. Future efforts may concentrate on aggregating CVD mortality based on the underlying cause of death and not the immediate cause of death. Also, additional insight may be gained by examining the relationship between nonfatal CVD events and dispositional optimism.