I’m totally hosed!
Believing that others are motivated by selfishness, or that they lie to get what they want, appears to radically increase the risk of cognitive decline in later life.
It could mean that grumpy old men and women should be screened more closely for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Cynicism has previously been linked to health problems such as heart disease, but this is the first time it has been associated with dementia.
“These results add to the evidence that people’s view on life and personality may have an impact on their health,” said Dr. Anna-Maija Tolppanen, the lead researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, whose study is published online in the journal Neurology.
Academics asked nearly 1,500 people with an average age of 71 to fill out a questionnaire to measure their levels of cynicism.
They were asked how much 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.”
Those taking part were monitored for eight years, during which time 46 of them were diagnosed with dementia. The academics discovered that those who had scored highly for cynicism were three times more likely to have developed dementia than those with low scores.
Researchers adjusted the results for other factors that could affect the risk of dementia, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.
Of the 164 people with high levels of cynicism, 14 people developed dementia, compared with nine of the 212 people with low levels of cynicism.
One in three people over 65 will develop a form of dementia. Of the 800,000 people in the U.K. who have the condition, more than half have Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that 1.7 million Britons will suffer from dementia by 2051.
Responding to the study findings, charities cautioned that the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia could make people more cynical about life.
Dr. Doug Brown, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “While this research attempts to make a link between higher levels of cynical distrust and risk of dementia, there were far too few people in this study that actually developed dementia to be able to draw any firm conclusions.