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

Human Trial for Ebola Vaccine to Begin This Week
The first human trial for an investigational Ebola vaccine is set to begin this week.
10 Types of Hunger and How to Control Them
To help you decode what your body and brain are really saying, you've got to learn the difference between the types of hunger—from real to boredom to stress. Here's how.
12 Surprising Things That Mess With Your Memory
Here are some unexpected things that impact your memory in both good and not-so-good ways.
Action Flicks May Fuel Mindless Munching
You're more likely to snack during action-packed programming, a new study found.
'Ebola Is Real' on Streets of Monrovia
Denial continues to fuel the deadly outbreak in West Africa.
Ebola Outbreak Spreads: Senegal Reports 1st Case
The Ebola outbreak is expected to reach 20,000 in six months.
Ebola Survivor 'Walked Through the Valley of Death'
Dr. Philip Ireland remembers the moment he realized he had Ebola.
Brain-Eating Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water Supply
The rare amoeba can cause a deadly form of meningitis.
US to Test Ebola Vaccine in Humans Amid Growing Outbreak in West Africa
American scientists will begin testing an Ebola vaccine in humans next week, U.S. health officials announced today. But it could take 11 months to learn whether the vaccine is safe as the virus’s toll in West Africa continues to rise.
Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone Tied to Healer's Funeral
By mapping Ebola's deadly genetic details, scientists seek answers to what makes it tick
A Look Inside a Slum Cut Off by the Ebola Outbreak
Quarantined West Point residents are desperate for food amid the Ebola outbreak.
Surgeons Get 'Dress Rehearsals' with 3D-Printed Body Parts
Boston Children's Hospital prints replicas of patients' body parts for practice.
Behind the Gates of an Ebola Ward With a Burial Team
Blue steel gates guard the back entrance to an Ebola treatment center, where new patients flood in faster than bodies are removed. Today, I met a burial team tasked with collecting and burning the bodies – a dangerous but crucial job amid the worst-ever outbreak.
How Nail Polish May Fend Off Sexual Assault
This nail polish changes color on contact with date rape drugs.
Troubled College Football Player Had CTE
Ex-Missouri State player Michael Keck, who died at 25, diagnosed with CTE.
Ebola Outbreak: Dr. Besser's Look at Life Inside the Hot Zone
Dr. Richard Besser reports on the growing outbreak from Monrovia, Liberia.
Watch: Inside the Triage Unit Where Patients Find Out If They Have Ebola
ABC News' Dr. Richard Besser gets a behind-the-scenes look at Ebola crisis at JFK Medical Center in Liberia.
5 Weird Ways Stress Can Actually Be Good for You
Here, then, are five reasons you should rest easier when it comes to everyday stress—and how a little short-term anxiety can actually benefit your brain and body.
7 Ways Debt Is Bad for Your Health
Regardless of who you are—or why you owe money—science suggests that being in debt could be affecting your physical and mental health. Here are just some of the reasons to get back in the black.
10 Weight Loss Mistakes Most Women Make
Dropping pounds boils down to a simple-sounding formula: burn more calories than you take in; eat less and move more. But anybody who has ever cut calories and ramped up an exercise plan in an effort to slim down knows it's a lot harder than it sounds. All dieters inevitably make mistakes along the way—and most of the time they don't even realize it. Here are the 10 flubs that everyone makes when they're trying to shed fat.
9 Worst Eye Care Mistakes You're Making
Here’s what not to do to make sure your vision stays healthy well into your golden years.
 

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 Extreme Weight Loss
09:00PM Celebrity Wife Swap
10:00PM Channel 3 News

Complete ABC 3 Schedule