Anger Expression is a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

A recent Canadian study was published in the American Heart Journal that evaluated different methods of expressing anger in 785 men and women, and the associated outcomes for heart health. Anger expression was evaluated by trained health professionals who conducted detailed surveys and video-taped interviews with participants. Types of anger expression included constructive, goal-oriented expression, and destructive expressions that included self-justifying behaviour (e.g. removing oneself from blame for the angering situation), and brooding behaviour (e.g. where an individual might hold a grudge and feel more anger over time).

Relative to participants who had high constructive anger expression scores, participants with low constructive anger scores were more likely to feel depressed. Those with high destructive anger scores were more likely to be hostile and have diabetes. Both types of people were more likely to smoke, and both genders in both categories of poorer anger expression had increased risk (31% for those with high destructive anger scores), for developing coronary heart disease in 10 years.

Interestingly, of participants demonstrating a high ability to express anger constructively, only the men were benefited by a reduced risk of for coronary heart disease of 41%. The authors of the study suggest that this gender difference might be societal, given that women and men are taught to express anger differently. Regardless, the end result is clinical evidence that emotions do impact heart health, and that learning to express anger in a healthy way may benefit your heart in a measurable way.