The New Resilience

Better health in an interconnected world.

Are You Cynical? Here's Why It's Time for a Change

Your attitudes can affect your mental health, in a big way.

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Science continues to demonstrate the active interconnection between all “parts” of ourselves and the physical/social environment that we experience and deal with throughout life. In my view, this is more than “brain-behavior” or “mind-body” connection: We are biological/psychological/spiritual/social beings.

All dimensions of ourselves are constantly at play.

A recent study reveals a new connection between a specific personality trait—cynicism—and the likelihood of dementia. The research, published in the journal Neurology, found that people with high levels of “cynical distrust” were three times more likely to develop dementia than those with low levels of cynicism.

I think such research shows the system-wide impact on our entire being of the emotional attitudes and perspectives about life that we consciously create and shape—or that we allow to take root from unexamined, unresolved life conflicts.

The researchers, led by Anna-Maija Tolppanen at the University of Eastern Finland, defined cynical distrust as the belief that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns. They assessed level of cynicism by asking people 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.”

For their results, the researchers adjusted for other factors that could increase one's dementia risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Moreover, the link between cynicism and dementia was not accounted for by depression—they appear to be independent factors.

Previous research had already found an association between cynical attitudes and other health problems, such as a higher rate of coronary heart diseasecardiovascular problems, and cancer-related death. But this was the first study to examine the relationship between cynicism and dementia. “We have seen some studies that show people who are more open and optimistic have a lower risk for dementia so we thought this was a good question to ask,” Tolppanen noted.

These results," she said, "add to the evidence that people’s view on life and personality may have an impact on their health."

That’s an understatement, for sure.

 

 

dlabier@centerprogressive.org

Blog: Progressive Impact

Center for Progressive Development

© 2014 Douglas LaBier

Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., is a psychologist and the Director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, DC.

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