The Effects of an Optimism-Based Cognitive Behavioral Intervention On Mood and Functioning in Cardiac Patients

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mitchell E. Berman

Advisor Department



Optimism has been linked to various successful health outcomes, including better health in general, increased immunocompetence, and better prognosis for serious medical illnesses. Previous research supports the notion that a cognitive-behavioral intervention designed to increase levels of optimism in medically healthy individuals, is also able to relieve depressive symptoms. The same may be possible for medically ill individuals, such as cardiac rehabilitation patients, experiencing depressive symptoms. Depression has been shown to hinder recovery after a cardiac event, and has even been related to morbidity and mortality rates in these patients. An intervention designed to bolster individuals by adopting a more optimistic outlook toward life expectancies and events could improve these patients' psychological and physical outcomes. The purpose of this study was to determine whether patients experiencing depression after a cardiac event or surgical procedure experienced better outcomes on measures of optimism, and cardiac-related depression, functional mobility, and quality of life through participation in an optimism training program, when compared to counterparts who either received cardiac-related psycho-education or no treatment at all. Results indicated that the optimism training led to significant improvement in optimism and a trend in reduction in cardiac-related depression from pre- to post-intervention. The improvements for optimism were maintained at follow-up. Improvements in quality of social interactions were also found, though no other effects for functional mobility or cardiac-related quality of life.