Health News

Health News

 
text size

Cynicism linked to greater dementia risk, study says

Updated: Saturday, May 31 2014, 06:42 PM CDT

(CNN) -- Your spouse "had to stay late at work" -- are you skeptical? Do you think your friend doesn't like you if he cancels dinner plans? Do you suspect that your co-worker is putting her ambitions ahead of the team?

Curmudgeons of the world, listen up: This line of negative thinking might actually hurt your health.

A new study in the latest edition of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that cynical people have a higher likelihood of developing dementia.

"There have been previous studies that showed that people who were cynical were more likely to die earlier and have other poor health outcomes, but no one that we could tell ever looked at dementia," said Anna-Maija Tolppanen, one of the study's authors and a professor at the University of Eastern Finland. "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."

Studying cynicism

Cynicism is a deep mistrust of others. Psychologists consider it a kind of chronic anger that develops over time.

Specifically, the kind of cynicism researchers looked at involved doubting the truth of what people say and believing most people are motivated by self-interest rather than by what is best for the community.

Village only for people with dementia

The study tested 1,449 people with an average age of 71. The study participants took a test for dementia. A separate test measured their level of cynicism. Both tests are considered reliable by researchers.

The cynicism test asks if the person agrees with statements like "Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it"; "I think most people would lie to get ahead"; and "It is safer to trust nobody."

Those who agreed with the critical statements in the test were considered highly cynical. The people with the highest level of cynical distrust had a 2.54 times greater risk of dementia than those with the lowest cynicism rating.

Researchers also examined the test results to see if the subjects who were labeled highly cynical died sooner than the others. But once compounding factors were screened out, they did not. Previous studies have shown a link between cynicism and an earlier death.

Still, the new study does not prove that having a bad attitude causes bad health outcomes. To prove a causal relationship, a study would need randomized controlled trials to show that a reduction in cynical attitudes through treatment actually lowered the risk of bad health outcomes.

More research is necessary to replicate the conclusions. But the results complement a wide body of research showing how "over time, people with highly cynical hostility do worse health wise," said Dr. Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Why cynicism may be bad for you

What might explain an association between cynicism and poor health?

This is a complex issue that needs to be studied more, Tindle said. The relationships between psychological attitudes and health outcomes are very complex.

"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," said Tindle, who wrote the book "Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging."

Tindle was the lead author on a study that examined the health outcomes of over 97,000 women and found that cynical women had a higher hazard of cancer-related mortality.


"The bottom line is that a high degree of anger/hostility/cynicism is not good for health," she wrote.

Research shows cynical people also tend to smoke more, exercise less and weigh more. They also have a harder time following even the best medical advice, because their cynical natures won't let them believe what people tell them, Tindle said.

Cat defrauded out of big inheritance when owner suffers dementia

Past studies have also found that people who are cynical have a higher rate of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular problems and cancer-related deaths. Cardiovascular disease can contribute to dementia because it essentially damages small blood vessels everywhere in your body, including in your brain.

Cynical people also tend to have greater stress responses, which means they typically have a higher heart rate, a higher blood pressure peak, and a tendency to have greater inflammation of their immune systems. Chronic inflammation is now known to be harmful to one's overall health and it is linked to everything from Crohn's disease to high cholesterol to even Alzheimer's.

Do what makes you happy

Can you come out of cynicism?

The good news is, being highly cynical is not a permanent state of mind.

"I am also certain that people can learn to change -- they change every day in that they quit smoking, they lose weight, they cut ties in unhealthy friendships," Tindle said. "The ultimate message is people are not 'doomed' if they have cynical tendencies."

So if your assumptions about people are making you angry and irritable, try having a little more trust.

"All of us are capable of adopting healthier attitudes," Tindle said. "As a physician, I see people of all ages making positive change every day."Cynicism linked to greater dementia risk, study says


Advertise with us!

Health Watch

  [ - ] Video Stories Only  [ - ] Text Stories Only  [ + ] Show All

ABC National Health News

Doctors Battling Ebola Are Met With Fear, Mistrust
Doctors Struggle To Contain Ebola Outbreak
Ebola, Spreading in Africa, Could Land in US
An Ebola outbreak that has killed at least 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could land in the U.S., health officials said.
5 Ways to Beat Stress-Induced Weight Gain
Even if you can’t fix the causes of your stress, you can make small changes to offset the effects. Here are five daily tweaks to help you beat stress-induced weight gain.
How Ebola Emerged Out of the Jungle
People caring for infected individuals- from friends and relatives who may be taking care of the diseased at home or the doctors treating the ill in hospitals- are among the most commonly infected.
American Doctor With Ebola Described as 'Strong Individual'
Dr. Kent Brantly is the first American to be diagnosed in this ebola outbreak.
What We Don’t Know About Lethal Injection Drugs
Drug doses and suppliers are sometimes kept secret, experts say.
Fear of Flying Amplified by Flurry of Air Disasters
Experts say flying can be 'perfect storm' for phobias.
Cards, and Love, Keep Pouring In for Little Boy Battling Cancer
Over 15,000 cards have been mailed to Danny Nickerson, the five-year-old battling cancer who is turning six tomorrow.
Report Raises Safety Questions on Popular Blood Thinner
Pradaxa has been linked to bleeding complications.
'Hero' Doctor Battling Ebola Spotlights Selflessness During Outbreak
The news that a doctor leading the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone has contracted the infection spotlights the selfless work of health care workers on the front lines of the outbreak.
Why It was Easier to Sleep in the Stone Age
You might sleep better on a “Stone Age� settlement, researchers say.
5 Things That Make You a Mosquito Magnet
You might want to rethink that backyard beer.
Baby Who Can't Open Mouth Celebrates First Birthday
Baby Wyatt still can't open his mouth despite WhatsWrongWithWyatt.com responses.
Sierra Leone Doctor Fighting Ebola Catches Disease
Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan has been called a national hero.
How 'NY Med' Neurosurgeon Prepares Patients for 'New Me'
By Philip Stieg, PhD, MD As chief of neurosurgery at a major teaching hospital, I am used to being observed — I always have students and residents watching me. Teaching is something I love to do, and nothing is more rewarding than mentoring the next...
Which Diet Gives the Best Bang for Your Buck?
A new study reveals how to lose more weight for less cash.
Deaf Toddler Has Second Brainstem Device Surgery to Help Him Hear
A deaf toddler, who underwent surgery to have a radical auditory device implanted into his brainstem to help him hear, is showing vast improvement after undergoing the surgery a second time, giving new hope that the device could one day be a viable treatment option for deaf children.
Insurance Won't Cover Therapy to Save Girl's Eyesight
Dear ABC News Fixer: My daughter was diagnosed at age 3 with eso strabismus, or "inward-pointing eye� and was given a prescription for glasses...
Cancer Lessons I Learned From a Fictional Teenage Boy
That love scene from "The Fault in Our Stars" is so intense.
How Hotter Summers Are Putting Swimmers at Risk
As families flock to pools and lakes to cool off, experts are warning about a risky consequence of climate change: waterborne disease.
Watch: American Doctor Undergoing Treatment After Testing Positive for Ebola
Dr. Kent Brantly came into contact with the deadly virus while treating Ebola patients in Liberia.
Watch: Sierra Leone's Chief Ebola Doctor Catches the Virus
The latest victim in the fight against the deadly virus in West Africa is the man leading the fight.
8 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism Right Now
From adding an extra ingredient to your smoothie to watching a funny YouTube video, you can fan your metabolism's flames in just minutes a day by adopting these research-backed habits.
9 Weight Loss Questions Answered
Get the facts and start losing fat fast.
14 Ways to Fight Hair Loss
Just because thinning is natural doesn't mean you have to accept it.
7 Subtle Signs You’re Drinking Too Much
How can you tell if you’re developing a problem? Not all the clues are the same for all people, but here are common signs you could be headed for trouble—and how to turn it around.
 

Enrollment for healthcare exchanges as part of healthcare reform begins October 1 in states where exchanges will be set up. Expect special reports each week from us about what you need to know about 'Obamacare' and the ongoing political fight about its future.

To Learn More About Health Care Reform, Click Here

Navigation

Sacred Heart Health System - Health Watch - WEAR ABC Channel 3
Sacred Heart Cardiology - Health Watch - WEAR ABC Channel 3
Sacred Heart Cancer Center - Health Watch - WEAR ABC Channel 3
Sacred Heart Orthopedics - Health Watch - WEAR ABC Channel 3
Coastal Vein Institute - Health Watch - WEAR ABC Channel 3
The Endoscopy Center - Health Watch - WEAR ABC Channel 3
Coastal Vascular & Interventional - Health Watch - WEAR ABC Channel 3
Stand Up Open MRI - Health Watch - WEAR ABC Channel 3
Advertise with us!

Tonight on ABC 3

06:30PM Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
07:00PM The Bachelorette
09:01PM Castle
10:00PM Channel 3 News

Complete ABC 3 Schedule