Old age and cynicism appear to have something in common. Both are risk factors for Alzheimer's. Cynical individuals have already been associated with elevated risks for health disease but findings of a new study conducted by researchers from Finland found that there are more unwanted health implications of being distrustful.
For the new study published in the journal Neurology on May 28, Anna-Maija Tolppanen, from the University of Eastern Finland, and colleagues asked more than 1,400 older adults who were between 65 to 79 years old to take a test that would determine how cynical they were.
The researchers found that the participants who had high scores in the cynicism test had nearly three times increased risks of developing dementia than the least cynical participants, as 14 of the 164 participants who were classified to have high levels of cynicism developed dementia during the study and only nine of the 212 participants who scored low in the cynicism test developed dementia.
Tolppanen said that the findings of their study show that people's personality can have an influence on their health and knowing the effects of certain personality traits on the odds of developing dementia may help provide insights on how to reduce risks for the condition.
"These results add to the evidence that people's view on life and personality may have an impact on their health," said Tolppanen. "Understanding how a personality trait like cynicism affects risk for dementia might provide us with important insights on how to reduce risks for dementia."
Alzheimers, the most common form of dementia, currently affects up to 5.3 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because of the advancing age of the U.S. population, the number is expected to increase by more than double by 2050. The condition, which leads to changes in a person's way of thinking, memory and behavior, is more prevalent in older adults with up to 50 percent of individuals 85 years old and over exhibiting symptoms of the disease.
Although the study suggests that personality may have an effect on brain health, Tolppanen acknowledged that they merely found a link and not a causal relationship in personality and risks for dementia and although earlier studies suggest an association between early death and cynicism, the researchers found that the participants of the study who were categorized as highly cynical did not die earlier than the others.