Cynicism in later life linked to dementia risk

Researchers have suggested that people who are highly cynical in later life are more at risk of developing dementia than people of the same age who are more trusting.

Posted on 27th November 2014

Researchers have suggested that people who are highly cynical in later life are more at risk of developing dementia than people of the same age who are more trusting. The study is published on 28 May in the Journal Neurology.

The study began in 1998 and initially involved nearly 1,500 Finnish participants aged 65-79. The volunteers were initially assessed for cynical distrust, defined as ‘the belief that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns’, using an eight-item rating scale. Participants were asked to rank how strongly they agreed with statements such as ‘I think most people would lie to get ahead’ and ‘It is safer to trust nobody.’

The researchers were able to reassess 622 of the volunteers during a follow-up study between 2005 and 2008. During this time, 46 people had developed dementia. The researchers used statistical analysis to investigate whether there was a link between levels of cynical distrust and dementia.

When other known dementia risk factors, such as smoking, physical exercise and general health were taken into account, the researchers found that people who were classed as being ‘highly cynical‘ had a higher risk of developing dementia than those with low levels of cynical distrust.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, 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, we would want to see a larger study conducted before we can be more confident in the proposed link between cynical distrust 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. With the rising numbers of people affected with dementia, any addition our understanding of what might affect disease development is important.”

Posted in Science news