A cynical attitude about other people could affect the health of your brain and increase the risk that you could develop dementia, researchers in Finland report.
In a study at the University of Eastern Finland, scientists say they detected a link between an attitude of cynical distrust, what the researchers defined as "the belief that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns," and a greater risk of the onset of dementia.
Writing in the journal Neurology, the researchers described administering test for dementia to 1,440 people, average age 71, while gauging the cynicism levels by recording the strength of their agreement with statements like "I think most people would lie to get ahead" and "It's safer to trust nobody."
Following the participants for most of a decade, the researchers said, revealed that those who recorded elevated high levels of distrust were twice as likely to develop dementia.
Fourteen of 164 people showing high levels of distrust at the beginning of the study in 1998 developed dementia during the following years, compared with just nine of the more than 200 people recording low levels, the researchers said.
"These results add to the evidence that people's view on life and personality may have an impact on their health," study leader Dr. Anna-Maija Tolppanen said.
"People with different personality traits may be more or less likely to engage in activities that are beneficial for cognition, such as healthy diet, cognitive or social activities, or exercise," she explained.
In their study the researchers took into account other dementia risk factors including smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Previously, studies have linked cynicism to other health issues, particularly involving heart health.
One such investigation in 2009 found women displaying elevated hostility and cynicism levels faced a greater risk of death during the eight-year study period than women showing low levels.
The Finnish study is preliminary and small-scale, Tolppanen acknowledged, and much more extensive research on a larger scale would be "really important" for scientists to be more confident of the link between cynicism and dementia.
The study only suggests an association between the two and is not yet proof of a cause-and-effect linkage, she said.
"This is the first study showing the link, so it is not possible to say yet whether this is causal or if the association is explained by something else," she said.
Heather Snyder, director of scientific and medical operations for the Alzheimer's Association, agreed, citing other studies that suggested links between personality trains and dementia. "But we don't have a clear picture of what or any linkage there may be at this point," she said.
"People should live their lives doing things they enjoy and staying active and engaged in life, and that will be better for their health overall."