Research — 03 June 2014

Individuals with high levels of cynical distrust — the belief that other people are usually motivated by selfish desires — may be more likely to develop dementia, according to a new study published in the journalNeurology.

Cynical distrust has been linked to other types of health problems, such as heart disease. This is the first study to see if there is a connection between cynicism and dementia.

“These results add to the evidence that people’s view on life and personality may have an impact on their health,” said study author Anna-Maija Tolppanen, Ph.D., of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio.

“Understanding how a personality trait like cynicism affects risk for dementia might provide us with important insights on how to reduce risks for dementia.”bigstock-Senior-Man-Outdoor-9009271

The study involved 1,449 people (average age of 71) who were tested for dementia and given a questionnaire to measure their cynicism levels.

The participants were asked how strongly they agreed with statements such as “I think most people would lie to get ahead,” “It is safer to trust nobody,” and “Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.” According to their scores, subjects were grouped into low, moderate, and high levels of cynical distrust.

A total of 622 people took two dementia tests, with the last test taken about eight years after the study began. During that time period, 46 people were diagnosed with dementia.

After researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect dementia risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking, the results showed that individuals with high levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than those with low levels.

Out of the 164 people who were rated as having high levels of cynicism, 14 developed dementia, compared to nine of the 212 people with low levels.

The researchers also investigated whether highly cynical people might be more likely to die sooner than people with low levels of cynicism.

Of the 1,146 people included in this part of the analysis, 361 died during the average of 10 years of follow-up. At first, these results appeared to show a link between cynicism and early death; however, after researchers accounted for factors such as socioeconomic status, smoking, and health status, a link was not found between cynicism and earlier death.

This article first appeared on Psych Central on 30 May, 2014.


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