Kathy K. Afrasiabi-Evans, Fielding's School of Psychology
Optimism is an important mechanism of mental health recovery and a major concern for patients with mental illness (van Gestel-Timmermans, van den Bogaard, Brouwers, Herth, & Nieuwenhuizen, 2010). Consequently, the study of optimism is important for understanding its relationship to recovery, as are instruments that measure optimism, since these are likely to be useful for treatment and research. Another variable possibly influenced by or linked to optimism is physical wellbeing. Many studies have studied the relationship between optimism and mental illness or optimism and physical illness. However, this exploratory non-experimental dissertation utilized cross-tabulation tests (chi-squares), correlations, and stepwise multiple regressions to explore the relationship and differences between optimism, physical health, and general level of functioning at the same time. This study’s hypothesis was tested by comparing the self-report data of 445 clients who were administered a life satisfaction survey at four San Bernardino, California, County Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) clinics, with their clinicians’ perceptions of the clients’ general functioning. A positive relationship was found between the clients’ perceptions of their optimism level and the clinicians’ perceptions of the clients’ general level of functioning (as measured by DSM-IV-TR Global Assessment of Functioning- GAF-scores), but not with their (clients’) self-rated physical health. Also, it was discovered that the relationship between optimism and good physical health with general level of functioning differed between diagnostic groups. Finally, women and Latino clients were diagnosed more with depression than males and clients in other ethnic groups.
Key Words: optimism, Global Assessment of Functioning, physical health, severely mentally ill, general level of functioning, recovery movement.