The New Resilience

Better health in an interconnected world.

Cynical? You're Increasing Your Risk of Dementia

New research shows that cynical people have three times the risk of dementia.

Science continues to demonstrate the active interconnections 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 personality dimension — 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 people with low levels of cynicism.

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

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 agreedwith 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.”

The researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect 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 found that cynical attitudes are associated with other health problems, such as a higher rate of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular problems and cancer-related death. But this was the first study to look at the relationship between cynicism and dementia. Tolppanen noted that “We have seen some studiesthat show people who are more open and optimistic have a lower risk for dementia so we thought this was a good question to ask.”

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

And that’s an understatement, for sure.

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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