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Anger Expression Can Be
Healthy, for Some Men
Excerpt By Linda Carroll, Reuters Health

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Outward expressions of anger may help protect some men from heart disease and stroke, a new study shows.

The risk of a non-fatal heart attack was cut by more than 50% in men with moderate levels of anger expression, compared to men who rarely expressed anger, according to the study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Men with moderate levels of anger expression were also less likely to have a stroke than those who rarely expressed anger.

The study may appear to contradict previous research showing that chronic anger raises the risk of heart disease. But those studies looked at levels of anger, not at styles of coping with anger, the study's lead author Patricia Mona Eng told Reuters Health. Eng was a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health at the time the study was conducted.

Also, Eng said, the social and professional status of the men in the study may help explain the results. "This was a population of high status men," Eng said. "It may be that when these men scream, they are heard."

The study followed 23,522 men aged 50 to 85 for two years as part of The Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Included in the group were dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists and optometrists.

The men filled out a questionnaire that asked, among other things, for them to score how often they reacted in the following ways: I express my anger; I make sarcastic remarks to others; I do things like slam doors; I argue with others; I strike out at whatever infuriates me; I say nasty things; I lose my temper and If someone annoys me, I'm apt to tell him how I feel.

The men in the study, for the most part, weren't door slammers, Eng said. "They were more likely to say they often expressed their anger," she added.

What Eng and her colleagues don't know is why anger expression appears to protect health. In fact, Eng said, the results were "surprising" to her.

It's possible that the men who rarely expressed anger were simply suppressing the emotion and that may have led to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. "But we didn't measure for anger suppression," she said. "And that's certainly something that should be done in future studies."

The study also shows that the relationship between anger and cardiovascular disease may be more complex than previously thought, Eng said.

SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine 2003; 65:100-110.


Reference Source 89

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