The VICE Guide to Right Now

People Who’re Cynical Are More Likely to Develop Heart Disease, Says Study

Cynical people are more adversely affected by stressful situations than those who respond with anger.
November 18, 2020, 12:53pm
Photo courtesy of Nik Shuliahin via Unsplash

According to a study published in the journal of Psychophysiology, constant negative thoughts or cynicism can lead to weakened heart health or even heart diseases. 

It is in stressful situations that our body’s “fight or flight response” comes into play. If the situation keeps repeating itself or gets monotonous, it often results in mellowing down of the usually exciting adrenaline pumping through the body, and that becomes normal with time. But people who are sceptical in nature—that is, mistrustful of ideas or people—become numbed to the stimulus and experience the high level of stress all over again

Previous studies have proven that psychological stress often leads to physiological strain. However, when it comes to people who are sceptical or cynical, they tend to experience high-stress levels every single time a stressful situation comes up. The author of the study, Alexandra Tyra from Baylor University in Texas, says that this might be bad for the heart as “it places increased strain on our cardiovascular system over time.” 

The team of researchers from Baylor aimed to examine the three main hostile responses: emotional, behavioural and cognitive. “'Cynical hostility… consists of negative beliefs, thoughts and attitudes about other people's motives, intentions and trustworthiness,” said Tyra in a statement


For the study, 196 individuals were analysed in two lab sessions with an interval of seven weeks. Researchers conducted stress tests lasting 15 to 20 minutes each. Several other tests were conducted too, such as a standard test to measure the personality and temperament which specifically focussed on degrees of hostility that represent an individual's disposition towards cynicism and chronic hate.

In one of the other tests, the participants were asked to formulate a five-minute speech to defend oneself from any kind of accusations of transgression.

“These methods of social and self-evaluation are designed to increase the experience of stress and have been validated in prior research,” said the author.

This isn't the first study to link cynicism to heart diseases. A previous study conducted by University of Michigan has also shown that cynical distrust is often associated with signs of inflammation which in turn increase the risk of heart disease. In that study, chronic stress and depression were also found to be associated with higher levels of certain inflammatory markers in the blood, which also result in higher risk of heart diseases. 

Follow Varsha on Twitter.