Cynical people are more likely to develop heart disease because of their constant negative responses to stressful situations, a study has found.
In most people, a stressful situation triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response, but if the same event happens again the body’s response is dampened down.
However, those who are highly sceptical never become numbed to the stimulus and experience the high level of stress all over again.
Previous research has proved psychological stress leads to physiological strain such as heart disease.
New research shows cynical people are more adversely affected by stressful situations than people who respond to unfortunate events with anger or aggression.
Scroll down for video
Cynical people are more likely to develop heart disease because of their constant negative responses to stressful situations, a study has found (stock)
A US team of researchers looked at three different forms of hostility — emotional, behavioural and cognitive — because they are linked to increased risk of disease.
The first study of its kind, published in the journal Psychophysiology, found the latter posed the greatest danger.
Lead author Alexandra Tyra, a doctoral candidate in psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Texas, said: ‘Cynical hostility… consists of negative beliefs, thoughts and attitudes about other people’s motives, intentions and trustworthiness.
‘It can be considered suspiciousness, lack of trust or cynical beliefs about others.
‘These findings reveal a greater tendency to engage in cynical hostility – which appears to be extremely relevant in today’s political and health climate – can be harmful not only for our short-term stress responses but also our long-term health.’
In most people, a stressful situation triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response but if the same event happens again, the body’s response is dampened down. However, those who are highly skeptical never become numbed to the stimulus and experience the high level of stress again (stock)
Previous studies have shown stress is as bad for us as being overweight, smoking and having high cholesterol.
Getting a regular good night’s sleep slashes the risk of heart failure by more than 40%
People who regularly get a good night’s sleep and are in a healthy nighttime routine are at a lower risk of heart failure than those who struggle to doze off.
A study of more than 400,000 Britons has revealed adults with the best sleep patterns have a 42 per cent reduced risk of heart disease compared to those with an unhealthy relationship with sleep.
The finding accounts for other factors such as age, genetics and the presence of conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Around 7.4 million people live with a heart and circulatory disease in the UK, more than double the number living with cancer and Alzheimer’s combined.
Ms Tyra said: ‘When you’re exposed to the same thing multiple times, the novelty of that situation wears off, and you don’t have as big of a response as you did the first time. This is a healthy response.’
But in cynical people, the body physically reacts in the same way again and again.
‘This is unhealthy because it places increased strain on our cardiovascular system over time,’ Ms Tyra said.
Researchers conducted stress tests lasting 15 to 20 minutes each on 196 participants during two lab sessions roughly seven weeks apart.
They also completed a standard psychological scale to measure personality and temperament – specifically degrees of hostility that represent an individual’s disposition towards cynicism and chronic hate.
In the psychological stress portion of the study, participants were given five minutes to formulate a five minute speech to defend themselves against a suspected transgression – either a traffic violation or shoplifting. They were told it would be videotaped and evaluated.
Ms Tyra said: ‘These methods of social and self-evaluation are designed to increase the experience of stress and have been validated in prior research.’
The volunteers were then asked to perform a five-minute mental arithmetic test, which varied slightly in each visit. Heart rate and blood pressure were recorded every two minutes during each phase.
Heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK – almost 170,000 each year.
They are the biggest causes of death worldwide, claiming about 18 million lives a year