Can Cynicism Increase Your Risk of Dementia?

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Cynicism is already considered an undesirable trait by most people who find constant pessimism uninviting, but a new study shows that cynics may also be at a higher risk for cognitive problems later in life.

In the study, cynicism is defined as the belief that people are largely driven by self-interests and self-promotion, and thus people are not to be trusted. But, the mistrust of others potentially puts you at a higher risk for dementia according to the findings published in the journal Neurology.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland, aimed to examine the long-term cognitive health effects of cynicism by evaluating 1,449 people. The participants were tested to screen for dementia, as well as completing questionnaires designed to gauge each individual’s level of cynicism. Out of those participants, 622 people completed two tests for dementia, with the second test occurring eight years after the start of the study. The average age of participants in the study was 71.

The questionnaire asked participants to respond to statements including “I think most people would lie to get ahead” and “It is safer to trust nobody.” Once the questionnaires were evaluated, the participants were split into groups of low, moderate, and high levels of cynicism. Out of the participants, 46 were diagnosed with dementia in the eight years between taking the two questionnaires.

After adjusting for outside factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, the researchers observed that those with high levels of cynicism were three times more likely to develop dementia compared to those with low levels of cynicism.

Of the 164 people identified as having high levels of cynicism, 14 developed dementia. Comparitively, only nine out of 212 people categorized as having low levels of cynicism developed dementia.
“[P]eople’s view on life and personality may have an impact on their health,” said study author Anna-Maija Tolppanen in a press release. “Understanding how a personality trait like cynicism affects risk for dementia might provide us with important insights on how to reduce risks for dementia.”

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