Researchers from the Iowa State University collected data from 1,307 men over a period of nearly 40 years. After analysis they found that those in the angriest 25% had 1.57 times the risk of early death compared to those in the least angry 25%.
Between 1968 and 1972 participants were ask one question – “Do you get angry easily?”.
The frequency of participants saying yes correlated with an increased risk of premature death. Interestingly, this pattern remained even after other factors were taken into consideration, including income, marital status and whether or not they smoked.
At the start of the study, the average age of participants was just under 30. The effects of their anger however were seen up to 35 years later.
The study looked at the effects of other personality traits thought to impact risk of early death. They found higher levels of cognitive ability and ‘follow-through’ to be protective against early death. Worryingly though, those who had these positive traits still increased their risk of dying earlier if they also admitted to being angry often.
Lead author, Amelia Kerraker, says this isn’t about being angry occasionally for five years.
“These people were likely to have been consistently angry. It’s OK to have a cross afternoon, or even a year. This question may capture not transient anger, but a predisposition to anger.”
The effects of anger on blood-pressure and cardiovascular health are well documented, so perhaps this comes as no surprise. Other studies conflict, saying that suppressing anger can be detrimental to health too. So is it healthy to express anger? Kerraker says perhaps, if it is occasional and over quickly.
She says that their study did not capture any nuances about anger, and in fact there is now a more sophisticated anger scale used in studies like these. Getting angry does appear to do more harm than good though, so learning to manage it can only be beneficial.