When evaluating the state of your health, you may want to use your words wisely—especially if you’d prefer not to get a cold this year.
According to a new study by Carnegie Mellon University, one’s self-assessment of health proved to be an accurate predictor of how robust a person’s immune system was. After having 360 healthy adults between the ages of 18-55 rate their health as “excellent,” “very good,” “good,” “fair” or “poor,” researchers found that those who deemed their health as “excellent” were twice as likely than the other groups to be resilient to a cold upon exposure. The interesting part? The participants’ health practices didn’t account for the differences in immunity, suggesting that simply believing themselves to be in “excellent” health was enough to resist a cold. Another point in favor of mind over matter.
What’s more, the study’s findings surmise that self-evaluations could even predict one’s life span. "Poor self-ratings of health have been found to predict poor health trajectories in older adults, including an increased risk for mortality,” lead researcher Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, told Science Daily. “Strikingly, these associations remain significant even after accounting for the effects of objective indicators of health such as physical exams, medical records and hospitalizations."
If you’re skeptical that merely thinking your health to be “excellent” will boost your immunity, there are a few other ways to improve your cold-resistance odds. For example, research has discovered that getting fewer than seven hours of shut-eye quadruples your risk of getting a cold. Also, exercise helps flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, which helps reduce your chances of getting a cold, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
As we head into cold and flu season, it seems we have nothing to lose being more optimistic about our health, especially considering it could mean less colds, a longer life or both. If you consider your own health as anything less than excellent, start implementing some healthy habits today—and if you want to measure your progress, just ask yourself.