Pessimism is a personality trait characterized by a tendency toward negative outcomes that is associated with higher instances of depression, heart disease, stroke, and reduced cancer survival as compared to optimists. So what brings along this unattractive characteristic? From one perspective, it has been shown that the lower your socioeconomic status (SES), the more pessimistic you become, but could there be something else influencing this relationship? It can’t just be SES, obviously! This was one of several questions asked by the VA Normative Aging Study, a longitudinal study of veterans in America.
Past research has suggested that lead could be linked to levels of pessimism; however, this research had limited conclusions because of insufficient information on SES in childhood and adulthood for the participants of the study. As a result of this inconclusiveness, past research has been unable to confirm that independent of SES, lead helped increase pessimism. But with new studies and analysis, researchers from the VA Normative Aging Study sought to find a clearer picture.
The VA Normative Study collected data from 412 men in the Boston area between 1991 and 2002 and measured their levels of pessimism using the Life Orientation Test. Lead exposure levels for these 412 men were then recorded using x-ray fluorescence.
Why measure lead? Exposure to lead will often result in damage to the nervous system, have negative impacts on memory, behavior, and intelligence, and may increase the risk of heart disease. These factors are particularly detrimental to you children with developing brains.
With all of their data and research, the researchers were able to determine that lead exposure levels were associated with increased pessimism ratings independent of the participant’s SES. In other words, even without considering SES, lead is related to levels of. And on the other end of the spectrum, researched also found that SES had an impact on pessimism independent of lead. Through these findings they concluded that it seems both lead exposure and SES have an impact on levels of pessimism, independent of one another.
There are several steps you can take to help you and your families avoid lead exposure.
1. To help reduce lead exposure that may be present in water, run cold tap water for about three minutes in the morning to help clean your home’s plumbing system. After flushing the pipes, fill a jug with water to use throughout the day for drinking and cooking.
2. In older homes, lead based paint may be present. If you are suspicious of your home having lead-based paint or if you have had it tested and lead is present in the paint, try adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls every couple of years and sweep regularly to pick up any paint chips.
3. Lead may also be present in ceramic pots and other types of cookware. We suggest buying food safe cookware made from stainless steel or cast iron.
4. Traces of lead may also be found in old, imported, or homemade ceramic dishware with a glaze. To be safe, try using dishware without a glaze like glass or stainless steel.