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Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Jun;98(24):e15869. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000015869.

Optimism may moderate screening mammogram frequency in Medicare: A longitudinal study.

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Health Equity Research Lab, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge.
Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.
Department of Health Policy and Management, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.
Departments of Medicine and Biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA.
Department of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA.
Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.
Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Davis, CA.
Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.
Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Centers (GRECC), Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Nashville, TN.


Higher trait optimism and/or lower cynical hostility are associated with healthier behaviors and lower risk of morbidity and mortality, yet their association with health care utilization has been understudied. Whether these psychological attitudes are associated with breast cancer screening behavior is unknown. To assess the association of optimism and cynical hostility with screening mammography in older women and whether sociodemographic factors acted as mediators of these relationships, we used Women's Health Initiative (WHI) observational cohort survey data linked to Medicare claims. The sample includes WHI participants without history of breast cancer who were enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B for ≥2 years from 2005-2010, and who completed WHI baseline attitudinal questionnaires (n = 48,291). We used survival modeling to examine whether screening frequency varied by psychological attitudes (measured at study baseline) after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, health conditions, and healthcare-related variables. Psychological attitudes included trait optimism (Life Orientation Test-Revised) and cynical hostility (Cook Medley subscale), which were self-reported at study baseline. Sociodemographic, health conditions, and healthcare variables were self-reported at baseline and updated through 2005 as available. Contrary to our hypotheses, repeated events survival models showed that women with the lowest optimism scores (i.e., more pessimistic tendencies) received 5% more frequent screenings after complete covariate adjustment (p < .01) compared to the most optimistic group, and showed no association between cynical hostility and frequency of screening mammograms. Sociodemographic factors did not appear to mediate the relationship between optimism and screenings. However, higher levels of education and higher levels of income were associated with more frequent screenings (both p < .01). We also found that results for optimism were primarily driven by women who were aged 75 or older after January 2009, when changes to clinical guidelines lead to uncertainty about risks and benefits of screening in this age group. The study demonstrated that lower optimism, higher education, and higher income were all associated with more frequent screening mammograms in this sample after repeated events survival modeling and covariate adjustment.

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