Expression Can Be
Healthy, for Some Men
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
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
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
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