Does cynicism cause dementia?

Cynical mistrust is the belief that other people’s actions are based solely on their personal interests. The results of a new study show that people who have a constant cynical attitude towards life are at a very high risk of developing dementia.

A team of scientists led by Dr. Anna-Malia Tolppanen from the University of Eastern Finland published the results of their study in the peer-reviewed American journal Neurology.

Previous research has found that a cynical attitude to life causes a number of health problems, including cardiovascular disease. The relationship between cynicism and dementia, that is, dementia, has not been studied.

According to the American Academy of Neurology, dementia is not a specific disease, but rather a term that defines a whole set of symptoms due to various abnormalities in the brain.

In people suffering from this clinical condition, the intellectual functions of the brain are mainly affected, thus preventing the performance of normal daily activities.

According to various estimates of world health experts in 2010 on a global scale 35.6 million people suffer from dementia. The number of patients is expected to double every 20 years.

To study the link between dementia and cynicism, scientists recruited a group of 1,449 people whose average age was 71. These people were conducted two types of research – on the level of intelligence and on the degree of cynicism.

Participants were asked to determine to what extent they agree with the following statements:
• “I think most people use lies to achieve their goals.”
• “It’s safest to trust no one.”
• “Most people try to profit from injustice if they can’t find another way to benefit themselves.”

After each of the participants passed the test, the scientists divided them into 3 groups: with a low, medium and high degree of cynical distrust.

8 years later, the level of intellectual ability test was repeated in 622 participants. Dementia was identified in 46 of them.

After adjusting for factors that may affect the risk of dementia, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, the researchers found that the most cynically distrustful participants were 3 times more likely to develop dementia compared to those in the first group, that is, with the lowest degree of cynical distrust.

14 out of 164 participants in the group with the highest level of cynical distrust developed dementia, and in the group with the lowest level dementia was found in only 9 out of a total of 212 volunteers.

Commenting on the obtained results, the authors note:

“These data are further evidence that people’s personality traits and outlook can have a significant impact on their health. Cynicism is a risk factor that can be controlled, that is, a person is able to master it himself.”

Among the tasks of the study was to clarify whether cynical distrust is a cause of premature death, but after adjusting for such risk factors as socioeconomic status, smoking and general health, this relationship was not confirmed .

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