Don’t look back in anger at your life – it could only make you feel ill in the future



12:43 GMT, 27 March 2012

People who remember the past in a negative light are more likely to fall ill, researchers say.

The study by the University of Granada found people’s attitude to the past, present and future influenced the perception they had of their health as well as their quality of life.

Those who looked back in anger found it harder to make an effort in their day-to-day tasks and were also more likely to perceive pain.

Don't look back: 'A negative view of the past is highly related to worse health indicators'

Don’t look back: ‘A negative view of the past is highly related to worse health indicators’

Co-author Cristian Oyanadel, said: ‘We have observed that when people are negative about past events in their life, they also have a pessimist or fatalistic attitude towards current events.

‘This generates greater problems in their relationships and these people present worse quality of life indicators.’

The researchers assessed 50 people – 25 women and 25 men aged from 20 to 70 – from a randomised sample, using questionnaires and time orientation tests.

The test included five dimensions that described attitudes towards the past, the present and the future.

Once grouped by profiles in accordance with their time perspective, the people had to complete a quality of life survey to measure their physical and mental health.

Mr Oyandel said: ‘According to what we have observed in our study, the most influencing dimension is the perception of the past.

‘A negative view of the past is highly related to worse health indicators.’

He said people who tend to be negative find it hard to make a physical effort in their day-to-day activities and have physical limitations for work performance; they perceive greater bodily pain and are more likely to become ill.

He added: ‘Furthermore, they generally tend to be depressive, anxious and present behavioural changes.’

Three time profiles were found from the study participants, corresponding to three styles: mainly negative and mainly future-oriented – the two extremes – and a well-balanced group.

Mr Oyandel said: ‘The balanced profile is the ideal one, given that it provides a healthy attitude in the three time zones.

‘They are people that learn positively from past experiences. They are more focused on achieving future goals and demand a lot of themselves, but they do not neglect that they need to have emotions and live pleasant experiences.’

He these people score higher because they are physically stronger, have better general mental health, are less likely to become ill and do not notice discomfort and body pain as much.

Mr Oyandel added: ‘On the other hand, people that are more future-focused – those that put their personal goals before everything – forget to live pleasant experiences and are not very connected to their positive past experiences.

‘They are not physically or mentally unhealthy but have a lower quality of life than the well-balanced group.’

The findings were published in the journal Universitas Psychologica.