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In an attempt to assess whether there are any characteristics which a majority of ordinary people regard as life-affirming or life-denying, a questionnaire was given to a pilot group of 167 respondents, representing three different age and social categories. Five life-affirming and five life-denying characteristics were mentioned by more than 10% of respondents. Of the former, Drive, Sociability, Happiness and Optimism were endorsed by 15-20%. Of the latter, Unsociability and Poor Coping were mentioned by 22%, making them distinctly more frequent than the following categories of Pessimism, Lack of Drive and Unhappiness (11-14%). It is suggested that a number of these subjectively determined characteristics, which the general public perceive as being life-affirming or denying, do indeed influence physical or mental health, illness or illness behaviour. It may therefore be of value to utilize this set of public perceptions in future programmes of health education.


Journal article


J R Soc Med. 1988 Mar;81(3):152-4.