Ironson, G., Banerjee, N., Fitch, C., Krause, N.
OBJECTIVE: There is a substantial body of literature describing the association between inflammatory biomarkers and negative emotional factors (i.e. depression). However, less is known about how they might be related to positive psychological variables. This study examined the association between positive emotional well-being (PEWB) and C-Reactive Protein (CRP), an inflammatory biomarker important for cardiovascular and other diseases. METHOD: Data were analyzed from 1979 respondents to a nationwide survey in the U.S., which included a chronically ill subgroup. Two aspects of PEWB were assessed; positive affect and life satisfaction. CRP was analyzed via blood-spot from a finger-prick. The mediating role of health behaviors (i.e., smoking, alcohol, BMI, and moderate exercise) was also examined. RESULTS: Both positive affect and life satisfaction were significantly related to lower CRP even after controlling for demographics and depression, in both the overall sample and chronically ill group. Only life satisfaction remained significantly related to CRP when controlling for health behaviors. When both depression and health behaviors were controlled, neither positive affect nor life satisfaction was significantly related to CRP. Moderate exercise emerged as the strongest mediator, followed by BMI and smoking. Individuals with low positive affect or low life satisfaction were at increased odds (OR = 1.40 and OR = 1.54, respectively) of having clinically elevated (≥3 mg/L) CRP. CONCLUSION: Our results add to a growing literature reporting an association between aspects of PEWB, especially life satisfaction, and a health-related biomarker of inflammation. Those with low positive affect or life satisfaction face increased risk of having clinically elevated CRP. Health behaviors, especially BMI and moderate exercise, account for some but not all of this relationship. Future studies should determine whether increasing life satisfaction and positive affect may contribute to improvements in health behaviors, inflammation, and better health outcomes.