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Too Cynical for Your Own Good?

Cynicism has been linked to heart disease and other health problems, and now research from Finland suggests that it may also be a risk factor for dementia. The research team tested 1,449 people with an average age of 71 for dementia, and also asked them to respond to a questionnaire that has proved reliable in determining levels of cynicism. The study participants were asked to agree or disagree 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." Based on their scores, participants were classified as possessing low, moderate or high levels of cynical distrust. After the investigators adjusted for other dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, they observed that of the 164 people with high levels of cynicism, 14 developed dementia. This rate was about double the incidence of dementia compared to nine of 212 people with low levels of cynicism. Eventually, these findings, if confirmed by further studies, may lead the way toward addressing attitude as part of preventive health care.

Anna-Maija Tolppanen et al “Late-life cynical distrust, risk of incident dementia, and mortality in a population-based cohort”, Neurology,