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Are You a Cynic? The Unexpected Way It Could Affect Your Health


"People with highly cynical hostility do worse health wise."

Having a consistently high level of cynicism was linked to an increased likelihood of developing dementia later in life, according to a study released this week.

Photo credit: Shutterstock Study has findings that suggest you might want to drop your cynicism. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

The study, published the American Academy of Neurology's journal "Neurology," is the first to examine the relationship between cynical distrust, a belief that others are motivated by selfish concerns, and dementia. Previous research has looked at the link between such an attitude and other health issues.

“These results add to the evidence that people’s view on life and personality may have an impact on their health,” Dr. Anna-Maija Tolppanen with the University of Eastern Finland said in a statement. “Understanding how a personality trait like cynicism affects risk for dementia might provide us with important insights on how to reduce risks for dementia.”

In the study, 1,449 people with the average age of 71 were tested for dementia and measured for their level of cynicism through a questionnaire. The questionnaire held phrases like “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.”

About eight years after the initial tests, 622 of the study participants were tested for dementia again. Of those, 46 total developed the brain condition. Of the more than 150 people who measured having a high level of cynicism, 14 developed dementia, while only nine of the 212 people who measured having low levels of cynicism developed dementia.

In cynicism's defense, a high level of such distrust was previously associated with earlier deaths, but the researchers' analysis found it was not actually linked with earlier death in this study.

Dr. Hilary Tindle with the University of Pittsburgh told CNN that more research was needed to confirm the results of the study, but as is, it does suggest "over time, people with highly cynical hostility do worse health wise."

"I can tell you from my clinical perspective from treating patients, I am absolutely certain that psychological attitudes can lead people down a road to poor health, because I see it every day when I talk to patients," Tindle, author of the book "Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging," added to CNN.

Wonder if you're cynical or not? Find out by measuring yourself on the Cynical Distrust Scale, which is derived from the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale that was used in this study. Give yourself 0 points if you say "completely agree," 1 point for "somewhat agree," 2 points for "somewhat disagree" and 3 points for "completely disagree. A lower score equals a more cynical personality:

  • I think most people would lie to get ahead.
  • Most people inwardly dislike putting themselves out to help other people.
  • Most people make friends because friends are likely to be useful to them.
  • It is safer to trust nobody.
  • No one cares much what happens to you.
  • Most people are honest chiefly through fear of being caught.
  • I commonly wonder what hidden reasons another person may have for doing something nice to me.
  • Most people will use somewhat unfair means to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.

(H/T: Science Daily)


Front page image via Shutterstock.

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