The authors prospectively examined changes in health after a major life event (death or onset of severe illness in family) among 5,007 employees (mean age=44.8 years) whose optimism and pessimism levels were assessed in 1997 and major life events in 2000. Health was indicated by sickness absence days during a period covering 36 months prior to the event and 18 months after the event. Increase in sick days after the event was smaller and returned to the prevent level more quickly among highly optimistic individuals than among their counterparts with low optimism. Parallel changes were not observed in relation to pessimism. These findings suggest that optimism may reduce the risk of health problems and may be related to a faster recovery after a major life event.