People With High Levels Of Cynical Distrust May Be More Likely To Develop Dementia, Study Says

People with high levels of cynical distrust may be more likely to develop dementia, according to a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Cynical distrust, which is defined as the belief that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns, has been associated with other health problems, such as heart disease. This is the first study to look at the relationship between cynicism and dementia.

For the study, 1,449 people with an average age of 71 were given tests for dementia and a questionnaire to measure their level of cynicism. People were asked how much they agree 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 grouped in low, moderate and high levels of cynical distrust.

A total of 622 people completed two tests for dementia, with the last one an average of eight years after the study started. During that time, 46 people were diagnosed with dementia. Once researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect dementia risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, people with high levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism. Of the 164 people with high levels of cynicism, 14 people developed dementia, compared to nine of the 212 people with low levels of cynicism.

Alzheimer’s Society comment:

‘While this research attempts to make a link between higher levels of cynical distrust and risk of dementia, there were far too few people in this study that actually developed dementia to be able to draw any firm conclusions.

‘However we do know that some people with dementia experience symptoms of paranoia, confusion and mood changes which can lead to cynicism and distrust. Building a better understanding of the less well known symptoms of dementia including personality changes and depression will help us understand the condition better and improve the treatment, care and support we can provide.’

Dr Doug Brown
Director of Research and Development
Alzheimer’s Society

Research reference: Late-life cynical distrust, risk of incident dementia, and mortality in a population-based cohort, Anna-Maija Tolppanen PhD et al. American Academy of Neurology


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