Published: 20:00 EST, 28 May 2014 | Updated: 02:51 EST, 29 May 2014
Cynics could be three times more likely to develop dementia, doctors have warned.
The trait has already been linked to heart disease and heart attacks – but now a study suggests that those who mistrust others are at far greater risk of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.
Scandinavian researchers asked 1,449 people with an average age of 71 to undertake two different tests: one for dementia, and another to measure how cynical they were.
Risk: Those who mistrust others could be three times more likely to develop dementia, doctors have warned
Participants were asked how much they agree with statements such as ‘I think most people would lie to get ahead’ and ‘It is safer to trust nobody’, and then tracked for an average of eight years to see if they developed dementia.
Once results were adjusted for other risk factors – such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, and smoking – the University of Eastern Finland team found those with high levels of ‘cynical distrust’ were three times more likely to develop dementia than their least cynical counterparts.
Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘There are likely to be many risk factors for dementia and this study suggests that a person’s outlook may also have a role to play.
‘However, only a small number of the volunteers studied developed dementia, and we would want to see a larger study conducted before we can be more confident in the proposed link between cynical distrust and dementia.
Trusting: Researchers found those with high levels of 'cynical distrust' were at greater risk of mental illnesses like Alzheimer's than their least cynical counterparts (right, file picture). Dr Simon Ridley (left), from Alzheimer's Research UK, said he would want a larger study conducted to confirm the link between cynicism and dementia
‘It is possible that the volunteers who had a high level of cynical distrust were already beginning to develop dementia.
‘It can be hard to separate whether cynical distrust could contribute to dementia, or is actually a symptom of disease.’
Nevertheless, the charity’s research director stressed that ‘any addition to our understanding of what might affect disease development is important.’