Hope Can Be Worse Than Hopelessness

In its 7th Annual “Year in Ideas” issue, the New York Times Magazine cited the work of former CBSSM researchers Peter Ubel, MD, and Dylan Smith, PhD, as among the best ideas of 2007. Here’s an excerpt from the article: “The research team . . . tracked people who had portions of their colons removed or bypassed . . . It’s surprising that the permanent-colostomy patients ended up happier six months after the operation than the temporary group, whose members were still holding out hope. Patients with a temporary colostomy experienced a significant drop in life satisfaction versus patients in the permanent group. . . It might seem strange that patients who are better off objectively were less satisfied with their lives, yet the finding makes sense: ‘If your condition is temporary,’ Ubel explains, ‘you’re thinking, I can’t wait until I get rid of this.’ Ubel says thoughts like these keep you from moving on with your life and focusing on the many good things that remain. Collaborators on this research were George Loewenstein, PhD (Carnegie Mellon University) and Aleksandra Jankovic, MS (CBSSM).