Banish colds with the right attitude

A GOOD attitude may not fend off all of life's woes, but it can help keep a cold at bay, a new study says. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh gave 334 healthy volunteers a series of surveys that were translated into scores of positive or negative "emotional styles" and then squirted a virus that causes colds up the volunteers' noses.

The subjects were then quarantined in hotel rooms for five days while they were tested for various signs of a cold. The cold is a good model for testing theories about the effect of mental states on illness, said Dr. Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist and the lead researcher for the study, which was published in the current issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

People who were most likely to describe themselves with words such as happy, pleased and relaxed came down with colds at one-third the rate of the people who were the least likely to use those words, the researchers found.

In addition, the people with more positive scores were more likely to have healthy habits such as exercising and getting enough sleep, and they had lower levels of hormones associated with stress.