Always looking on the bright side of life? Exploring optimism and health in three UK post-industrial urban settings

David Walsh, Gerry McCartney, Sarah McCullough , Marjon van der Pol, Duncan Buchanan, Russell Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Background Many theories have been proposed to explain the high levels of ‘excess’ mortality (i.e. higher mortality over and above that explained by differences in socio-economic circumstances) shown in Scotland—and, especially, in its largest city, Glasgow—compared with elsewhere in the UK. One such proposal relates to differences in optimism, given previously reported evidence of the health benefits of an optimistic outlook.

Methods A representative survey of Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester was undertaken in 2011. Optimism was measured by the Life Orientation Test (Revised) (LOT-R), and compared between the cities by means of multiple linear regression models, adjusting for any differences in sample characteristics.

Results Unadjusted analyses showed LOT-R scores to be similar in Glasgow and Liverpool (mean score (SD): 14.7 (4.0) for both), but lower in Manchester (13.9 (3.8)). This was consistent in analyses by age, gender and social class. Multiple regression confirmed the city results: compared with Glasgow, optimism was either similar (Liverpool: adjusted difference in mean score: −0.16 (95% CI −0.45 to 0.13)) or lower (Manchester: −0.85 (−1.14 to −0.56)).

Conclusions The reasons for high levels of Scottish ‘excess’ mortality remain unclear. However, differences in psychological outlook such as optimism appear to be an unlikely explanation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-397
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Public Health
Issue number3
Early online date11 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015

Bibliographical note

The survey was jointly funded by NHS Health Scotland and
the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.


  • excess mortality
  • Glasgow
  • Life Orientation Test (Revised)
  • optimism
  • post-industrial


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