Cynicism can cause bad health - and vice versa

IT is an emotion which is often met with a negative reaction from people who believe that doubting the veracity of everything prevents a person from enjoying life.

Cynical people like TV character Victor Meldrew - pictured - could be at a greater risk of ill health.

But now, an academic study has revealed that being cynical not only makes life less enjoyable - but also increases your risk of becoming ill.

However, the research, from the University of Cologne, also confirmed that bad health causes people to become more cynical.

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This vicious cycle has been confirmed by two social psychologists who analysed data from 40,000 people.

Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel and the US Health and Retirement Study, Dr Daniel Ehlebracht from the University of Cologne and Dr Olga Stavrova from Tilburg University looked at subjective health perceptions and various objective measures of physical health, such as the number of diagnoses from doctors, blood pressure or grip strength.

Results revealed that cynical individuals were much more likely to develop health problems but, vice versa, poor health promoted the development of a cynical worldview over time.

“Health problems that noticeably constrained subjects’ lives were the most likely to lead to cynicism. If someone’s illness prevented them from climbing up the stairs for example, they had a higher chance of becoming cynical than if they suffered from something less obviously inconvenient like elevated blood pressure,” Ehlebracht said.

David Gillanders, senior lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Edinburgh, said there were links between the way people with different personality types handle diagnoses - and that cynicism could play a part in that.

He said: “The degree of which people develop and use coping strategies to deal with an illness can have an impact,” he said.”Cynicism is linked to feelings of pointlessness and the attitude that something is not going to work.

“It is very different to if someone is accepting of a diagnosis and and takes a stance of how best to respond to their condition.”

The report's findings, published in the European Journal of Personality, suggest that cynicism and ill health present a chain of circumstances with each worsening the other.

The report said that stable social networks and well-functioning institutional support might help break the vicious circle of cynicism and bad health.