Optimism is linked with greater longevity in both White and African American populations. Optimism may enhance longevity by slowing cellular aging, for which leukocyte telomere shortening is a biomarker. However, limited studies have examined the association of optimism with leukocyte telomere length among African Americans.
Data are from 723 men and 1244 women participating in the Jackson Heart Study (age = 21-93 years). We used multivariable linear regression models to conduct cross-sectional analyses examining whether higher optimism was associated with longer mean absolute leukocyte telomere length (assayed with Southern blot analysis). Models adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics, depressive symptomatology, health conditions, and health behavior-related factors. We also considered potential effect modification by key factors.
In the age-adjusted model, optimism, measured as a continuous variable, was not associated with leukocyte telomere length (β = 0.01, 95%CI: -0.02, 0.04). This association remained null in the fully-adjusted model (β = 0.02, 95%CI: -0.02, 0.05) and was also null when considering optimism as a binary measure (higher vs. lower optimism). We found no evidence of effect modification by sex, age, body mass index, income, or chronic conditions.
Optimism was not associated with leukocyte telomere length among African American adults. Future studies should investigate alternate biological and behavioral mechanisms that may explain the optimism-health association.

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