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Dispositional optimism and terminal decline in global quality of life.

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We examined whether dispositional optimism relates to change in global quality of life (QOL) as a function of either chronological age or years to impending death. We used a sample of 2,096 deceased postmenopausal women from the Women's Health Initiative clinical trials who were enrolled in the 2005-2010 Extension Study and for whom at least 1 global QOL and optimism measure were analyzed. Growth curve models were examined. Competing models were contrasted using model fit criteria. On average, levels of global QOL decreased with both higher age and closer proximity to death (e.g., M(score) = 7.7 eight years prior to death vs. M(score) = 6.1 one year prior to death). A decline in global QOL was better modeled as a function of distance to death (DtD) than as a function of chronological age (Bayesian information criterion [BIC](DtD) = 22,964.8 vs. BIC(age) = 23,322.6). Optimism was a significant correlate of both linear (estimate(DtD) = -0.01, SE(DtD) = 0.005; ρ = 0.004) and quadratic (estimate(DtD) = -0.006, SE(DtD) = 0.002; ρ = 0.004) terminal decline in global QOL so that death-related decline in global QOL was steeper among those with a high level of optimism than those with a low level of optimism. We found that dispositional optimism helps to maintain positive psychological perspective in the face of age-related decline. Optimists maintain higher QOL compared with pessimists when death-related trajectories were considered; however, the gap between those with high optimism and those with low optimism progressively attenuated with closer proximity to death, to the point that is became nonsignificant at the time of death.

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