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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1992 Sep;63(3):460-73.

Optimism, coping, psychological distress, and high-risk sexual behavior among men at risk for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles 90024-1563.


In a cohort of gay men responding to the threat of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), dispositional optimism was associated with less distress, less avoidant coping, positive attitudes as a coping strategy, and fewer AIDS-related concerns. Men who knew they were seropositive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were significantly more optimistic about not developing AIDS than men who knew they were seronegative for HIV. This AIDS-specific optimism was related to higher perceived control over AIDS and to active coping among seropositive men only and to health behaviors in both serostatus groups. There was no relation of optimism to risk-related sexual behavior. It is concluded that optimism is psychologically adaptive without necessarily compromising health behavior. It is also concluded that it is useful to distinguish between event-based optimistic expectations and dispositional optimism.

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