Chronically ill? Give up hope, researchers say

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If you are chronically ill and looking to improve your quality of life, researchers at the University of Michigan have some counterintuitive advice: Give up hope.

For this study, the U-M Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine surveyed recent colostomy patients. One group was told the colostomy would be reversed in several months, while another group was told their conditions were permanent. Patients who believed their condition to be temporary had a more difficult time adjusting to their new situation, sacrificing happiness in favor of hope for the future, researchers found. The group that had no hope for getting better reported greater levels of happiness since they had gotten on with their lives.

Researchers did note that hope is an important part of happiness, but warned against what they call the "dark side of hope." Physicians should be especially mindful of the dichotomy when diagnosing patients.

"I don't think we should take hope away. But I think we have to be careful about building up people's hope so much that they put off living their lives," said lead researchers Peter A. Ubel, M.D. The report appears in the November edition of the journal Health Psychology.