ISR Awards

The Social and Economic Dynamics of Optimism and Hopelessness over American Adulthood: Evidence from the Americans? Changing Lives Study (1986-2011)

Optimism is typically considered to be a fairly stable trait with positive consequences for health and life chances. However a sociological approach suggests that optimism is socially constructed, exhibiting variability over adulthood as a result of life events, health, and role transitions. Using 25 years of nationally representative longitudinal data gathered prospectively on Americans across the full adult life course, we will conduct an integrated series of secondary data analyses that examine the social and economic antecedents of optimism (and hopelessness) and their consequences for health and mortality in mid to late life. This will be the first study to examine the antecedents and consequences of optimism over such a long period using nationally representative data. Also, as far as we are aware this is the only study measuring both optimism and hope (as captured by its absence: hopelessness) in the same dataset collected prospectively on the same individuals over time.