‘Look on the bright side’ has always been a particularly annoying piece of advice,usually given by insufferably chipper people to those of darker mood.To make matters worse,it now seems that these gleespreaders have a point. Finnish researcher Anna-Maija Tolppanen seems to have discovered a link between the onset of dementia and people with particularly cynically distrustful temperaments. In fact, her research suggests that dementia could be almost three times more likely for the greatest scowlers among us.
Subjects – comprising, initially, 1 449 elderly Finns – were asked their level of agreement with a series of statements to determine the depths of their distrust for their fellow man. For instance:‘I think most people would like to get ahead,’‘Most people make friends because friends are likely to be useful to them,’ ‘It is safer to trust nobody,’ and ‘Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.’ (You can decide for yourself how you’d fare: people were grouped as low- , moderate- and high-level cynics).They were also tested for dementia.
Following up on the respondents over eight years, and after adjusting for other known causes of dementia (including smoking), researchers found that respondents who developed dementia were most likely to have come from the most cynical camp.‘It’s difficult to say what the exact reasons are but we could assume that an attitude of distrust may influence a person’s lifestyle and social networks,’ Tolppanen told The Independent. ‘We don’t say it’s a causal factor, we just say it increases the risk.’ Cynics, contacted for comment, sounded unsurprised by the findings.‘Typical,’ one muttered.