OBJECTIVE: To examine the relationship between optimism-pessimism and quality of life (QOL) in survivors of head and neck and thyroid cancers. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Between 1963 and 2000, 190 patients completed both the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), used to assess explanatory style (optimism-pessimism), and either the 12-Item or 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-12 or SF-36), used to assess QOL. The MMPIs were completed an average of 13.4 years before the QOL assessment. The QOL measures were completed an average of 12.5 years after cancer diagnosis. Patients were divided into quartiles based on their MMPI Optimism-Pessimism scale score. Analysis was performed for all patients, those with head and neck cancer, and those with thyroid cancer. Adjustments were made for age, sex, and disease stage. RESULTS: For all 190 patients, optimism was associated with a higher QOL on both the mental and the physical component scales and 6 of 8 subscales of the SF-12 and SF-36. For patients with head and neck cancer, optimism was associated with higher QOL on 3 subscales but neither component scale. For patients with thyroid cancer, optimism was associated with higher QOL on both component scales and 6 subscales. After adjusting for age, sex, and disease stage, optimism was not associated with QOL in the head and neck cancer group. CONCLUSIONS: Optimism was associated with a higher QOL in survivors of thyroid cancer compared with survivors of head and neck cancer. After adjusting for age, sex, and disease stage, optimism was not associated with QOL for survivors of head and neck cancer. Optimism was more associated with the mental rather than physical QOL subscales.
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