Can anger really shorten my life?
BY: John Hanc
Yes, says Jerry Deffenbacher, Ph.D., a professor of psychology who has studied anger at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins. Chronic anger has been associated with high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. What’s more, research has shown that people with high levels of hostility are more likely to die at an earlier age -- from all causes, not just the aforementioned -- than those with a more peaceful nature. In fact, a recent data analysis from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, a 50-year long study of nearly 2,400 individuals, found that men and women who were more emotionally stable -- that is, less likely to become angry or anxious -- better informed, and disciplined and resourceful generally lived longer.
So what constitutes “chronic anger”? People who are chronically angry are “more vulnerable to experiencing anger,” explains Deffenbacher. “They have more triggers for their anger, tend to become angry more frequently and tend to become more intensely angry when angered.” In addition to chronic anger, there is also episodic anger. This is when “you’re angry and you do something stupid,” says Deffenbacher. “You kick the car, smash your hand against the steering wheel. Can that kind of anger have an adverse effect on your health? Probably.”
Either way, the message is clear: Anger can be hazardous to your health. But you can learn to control, modify or lower angry feelings with relaxation techniques, anger management classes or counseling. Just remember: The less likely you are to blow your top, the more likely you are to live to a ripe old age.
John Hanc is a New York-based fitness writer who writes for Live Right Live Well, Runner’s World, The New York Times, Family Circle, AARP Bulletin, Newsday and others. He is the author of eight books, including The Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon (Chicago Review Press 2009).