Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Feeling Angry? Good for You!

Contrary to previous studies about anger and the risk of heart disease, new research has found that women with high levels of hostility and anger do not have an increased risk of heart disease compared to women with lower levels of anger. In fact these women were found to have a slightly lower risk, though not enough to be statistically significant. Past studies have shown a link between anger and heart disease and medical models to explain this phenomenon have been proposed. The correlation between angry men and heart disease still holds.

So what is it about women that they may not realize the same health consequences from anger that men do? The study does not answer that question, but a search of the internet reveals some interesting hypotheses. One study from the University of California at San Francisco found that while men and women experience anger differently, both take advantage of their anger in day to day interactions with the same frequency. Women are likely to report anger as feeling akin to frustration or expressing negative feelings about having anger. But they are just as likely as men to act on their anger. The difference seems to be that typically men use their anger directly – to confront people or voice displeasure - whereas women are more likely to channel their anger to create change in a more indirect way. Most people would guess that this difference is one that arises from social expectations and taboos on women expressing strong negative emotions or assertive behavior. Conventional wisdom would tell us that repressing anger is harmful to the body and soul. But apparently repressing it long enough to convert it into another type of action is not only not harmful, it is probably more productive.