The study, published in Psychological Science, tracked teens for one year and found those who did not persist in obtaining hard to reach goals had much lower levels of the protein CRP, an indicator of bodily inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to several serious diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
Psychologists Gregory Miller of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and Carsten Wrosch in Concordia University in Montreal developed a psychological instrument to distinguish between people who, when faced with a difficult goal, either persist or let go.
"When people are faced with situations in which they cannot realize a key life goal, the most adaptive response for physical and mental health may be to disengage from this goal," the authors said in a statement.
However, the psychologists also found that the teens who readily jumped back into life had a greater sense of purpose and mastery and were less likely to ruminate about the past. Setting new goals may buffer the emotional consequences of failure, the authors said.