How Anger Affects Men

men anger
Unfair treatment at work can be frustrating. But bottling up anger about the situation can be deadly—especially for men. A Stress Research Institute of Stockholm University study found that men who don't express their feelings about being mistreated at work may be up to five times more likely to suffer a heart attack, or even die from one.

The study followed 2,755 employed men who had not suffered any heart attacks from 1992 to 2003. During the study, researchers kept track of participants' feelings as well as how they coped with them.

At the end of the study, 47 participants had either suffered an attack, or died from heart disease. Many of those men had been using “covert coping” to deal with the situation, according to the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The study's authors note that even after adjusting for factors such as age and risk behavior typically related to heart disease, a close-response relationship remains between covert coping and the risk of heart disease or death from a heart attack. Covert coping is defined as holding anger in—essentially not dealing with a stressful, unjust situation when it happens—despite feelings that colleagues or bosses had taken unfair advantage of them or been unduly harsh.

Hold onto Anger—No

While it’s not a good idea to hold in anger, it’s probably just as bad an idea to storm off without a resolution or, worse, fly into a rage. A recent study from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that men who were quick to anger were three to five times more likely to develop heart disease or suffer from an early heart attack.

This study tracked 1,337 male students for 36 years following medical school. It found that many men who had high expectations of themselves and others tended also to easily anger.

“It’s okay to be busy and always on the go, but anger, hostility, and a cynical attitude aren’t good for your heart health,” notes Jerry Kiffer, M.A., psychology assistant in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and manager of the Psychological Testing Center at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Kiffer further notes that when people get angry, they release cholesterol and an array of chemicals called catecholamines into the bloodstream. People who are hostile or angry have advanced levels of catecholamines in their systems, and research has shown that these chemicals actually speed the development of fatty deposits in the heart and carotid arteries.

Key to staying healthy is learning good coping techniques to deal with stress and anger.

How to Cope

While the Stockholm University researchers said they could not specifically say what good coping techniques might be, they did recommend open coping behavior for men who felt they had experienced unfair treatment or conflict. These techniques include:
  • protesting directly,
  • talking to the person right away,
  • yelling at the person right away, or
  • speaking to the person later when things have calmed down.
Kiffer likens holding in anger to shaking a two liter bottle of pop with the cap on. Sooner or later the pop bottle will explode, and so will you—probably in the form of a heart attack or some other ailment.

“It’s a delicate balance,” explains Kiffer, adding that it’s best to acknowledge anger and take constructive action to try and change the situation that’s causing the problems. But if taking action doesn’t resolve the situation, it’s best to try to accept it and let it go.

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