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January 20, 2013, Last updated March 5, 2014
By A. Turner, Featured Columnist
We all get a little angry sometimes, and in most cases that’s okay: we
should express our emotions, we should tell someone how we really
feel, right? Perhaps. But what happens when our “healthy”
expression of anger crosses that fuzzy, gray line into rage? Is it
possible that our anger is harming others – or ourselves? And why are
the 2 hours after you get angry the most dangerous 2 hours of your
Anger is of such pressing concern that there’s an organization in the
UK called The British Association of Anger Management (BAAM) that
devotes itself entirely to “all aspects of anger and conflict
management.” BAAM published a study in 2008 that showed some
unsettling statistics: nearly a third of people polled reported having “a
close friend or family member who has trouble controlling their anger,”
and 64% felt that in general, people are “getting angrier.” This high
prevalence of a sometimes-okay emotion is even more alarming in
nearly half of us – that is, men.
The PBS program “This Emotional Life,” notes that anger differs
between men and women. Most of us have probably realized that
anger is culturally accepted as a masculine emotion, so that “boys and
men are encouraged to act it out,” and that, in general, “men tend to
be more aggressive and impulsive in response to anger.”
Unfortunately, these cultural norms may have far reaching
consequences. Anger in men can increase the risk of serious health
conditions, and damage social and emotional relationships.
We have assembled a list of the health risks for men who cannot
control their anger, as discovered by experts from around the world.
1. New Fathers: A Sometimes Depressing and Angering Situation.
It’s hard to think of a more stressful time. You’re working, you’re
wondering how you’ll pay for college in eighteen years, and that cute
one-year-old won’t stop crying and screaming. A study from Ann
Arbor suggests that for fathers, having a one-year-old may stir up a lot
of emotions – which could, if not handled properly, lead to unnecessary
punishment of that child.
In 2011, exerts from both the Child Health and Evaluation Research
Unit and the Division of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor, including Dr. R. Neal Davis with the first, analyzed how
depression manifested in fathers of 1-year-old children. Data was
gathered from over 1,700 fathers of 1-year-olds, aiming to track
“positive parenting behaviors” (such as playing games, singing songs,
and reading stories to their child three or more days each week), and
“negative parenting behaviors” (including spanking once a month or
more). Results showed that 7% of the participating fathers had
depression, and that “depressed fathers were more likely than
nondepressed fathers to report spanking.” Depressed fathers were
also “less likely to report reading to their children.”
Philosophies of parenting differ, so that some may say it’s okay to
spank a child, while others view the same action as abuse: wherever
you fall on this scale, if you are the father of a one year old you might
want to talk to someone about depression and ensuing anger, for the
sake of the entire family.
2. Male Cynics: Not Heart-Healthy
Most of us enjoy a health dose of sarcasm from time to time. However,
researchers from Japan find that if men let their sarcasm fester into a
cynical outlook on life they could be giving themselves a heart attack –
no sarcasm intended.
In 2011, a team of experts from various institutes in Japan, including
Shuhei Izawa with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and
Health, investigated the connection between “cynical hostility” and
acute myocardial infarction (AMI). 96 middle-aged men with acute
myocardial infarction and 77 controls participated in the study by
completing the “Cynicism Questionnaire” (a daunting task, indeed).
Results showed that patients with AMI “exhibited higher scores” on
this questionnaire than controls (that is, they scored higher in
cynicism), so that “higher levels of cynical hostility increased the risk of
If you have a cynical wit, it may get you laughs at parties – but if you
want to be able to keep partying you may have to cut back on the
cynicism. Ah, the choices in life.
3. Angry Men: Making it Harder for Their Hearts.
It’s not only cynicism that can squeeze out your heart (see above):
more general feelings of anger and depression can put men at risk for
thickening of carotid plaque, an early indicator of cardiovascular
In 2012, an international team of doctors hailing from Japan, Ann
Arbor, Boston, New York, and Baltimore, including Dr. Ana Diez Roux
with the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan,
investigated how the thickness of the carotid arterial wall (IMT), which
is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease, was influenced by anger,
anxiety and depression in over 6,500 men.
Results showed that anger was “associated with the presence of
carotid plaque,” and that the association of anger with thicker carotid
arterial wall was “statistically significant.” This study also looked at
women, and found that these associations were “stronger in men than
in women and in whites than in other race/ethnic groups.”
And in March of 2014, a study from Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky and others
at the Harvard School of Public Health has confirmed that anger is
hazardous for your heart. Her team discovered that, in the 2 hours
following an angry outbursts, your risk of heart attack is 5 times higher
than normal. Your risk of stroke is 3 times higher than normal.
What this study points out is that the 2 hours following an angry
outbursts are the 2 most dangerous hours in your day.
Here is what I do. Whenever I get hot under the collar -- I take an
aspirin. Aspirin is a blood thinner and I take it just in case the load on
my heart is too high. It's not high tech science but it works for me.
Always look on the bright side of life – for the sake of your heart!
4. Rage at Race: A Recipe for Further Distress.
Anyone who has been a victim of racism, or has seen it happen to
another, knows that racism is something to be angry about. However,
research from Illinois suggests that anger at this injustice will not only
fail to solve the problem in most cases, but could also weaken a victim’s
In 2011, Chavalla Pittman with Dominican University in Illinois
investigated how two very important realities impact each other: anger
and racism. The study included 366 African Americans who reported
experiences of “acute” or “chronic” racial discrimination. Linear
modeling showed that “using anger to cope with racial discrimination
negatively affected the general well-being and psychological distress of
If you are in a situation where you face racism regularly, try
considering strategies that don’t involve anger and fury: one act of
injustice does not deserve another.
5. Rumination at Work: The Quieter Anger.
Continue reading page 1 page 2
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|Chronic anger increases your risk for heart
problems. In fact, the 2 hours after you get
angry are the most dangerous 2 hours of