Scientists from the University of Eastern Finland have found that people who have high levels of cynical distrust are three times as likely to suffer from dementia in later life, than those who have more faith in other people.
Their study is the first of its kind to look at the relationship between cynicism and dementia. Entitled: "Late-life cynical distrust, risk of incident dementia, and mortality in a population-based cohort", it is published in the latest issue of the journal Neurology.
Over a period of eight years, the researchers studied 1,499 people, who all had an average age of 71. The participants were given tests for dementia and a questionnaire to measure their level of cynicism, based on the Cook-Medley Scale.
They were asked how much they agreed with statements such as, "It is safer to trust nobody" and "Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it", and then grouped by their responses into three categories: low, moderate and high levels of cynicism.
Your views on life can affect your health
The participants' scores tended to remain stable over several years, and at the end of the study, 622 people had completed two tests for dementia.
During the study's duration, 46 people were diagnosed with dementia, and after adjusting the results to include other medical factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the researchers found that people with high levels of cynicism were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with lower levels.
"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, PhD, 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."
Cynicism will not make you die sooner
However, fortunately they were not able to find any link between cynicism and earlier death in another part of the study, where 1,446 people were analysed to see whether people who had high levels of cynicism were more likely to die sooner than people less cynical.
While the researchers' acknowledge that larger studies need to replicate their results, they feel that cynical people should consider changing their behaviour and outlook on life to promote better health.
"This novel finding suggests that both psychosocial and lifestyle-related risk factors may be modifiable targets for interventions," the study's conclusion states.