How anger undermines our health

Updated on April 27, 2024

Negative emotions, such as anger, are a natural and inescapable part of life, that actually serve important purposes like causing us to change something in our current situation that we aren’t okay with and that may be unfavorable to our physical or emotional wellbeing. However, if allowed to spin out of control and take over our lives, a negative emotion like anger can have a serious negative impact not only on our piece of mind, but also on our physical health.

To some people, saying that anger can lead to health problems may seem like a bit of a stretch. However, there are numerous studies and research campaigns that scientifically confirm a direct correlation between anger issues and problems with a person’s physical health. Here are some of the unexpected ways unresolved anger issues could sabotage a person’s health that should help convince us to try to remain calm and find constructive ways to handle our anger.

Increased risk of a heart attack

One of the best documented ways in which excessive anger can affect a person’s health is the damage caused to the heart. According to researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, people are twice as likely to have a heart attack in the two-hour period after an outburst of anger. Studies from other institutes have similar findings, all leading to the conclusion that having anger issues can be very harmful to a person’s heart.

However, it’s not only about anger outbursts – bottling up your anger will hardly do you any favors either. The chance of developing heart disease and suffering a heart attack are twice as high for people with anger problems, regardless of whether they are prone to exploding into an outburst or repressing their anger.

Higher stroke risk

A heightened risk of suffering a stroke is another serious problem associated with anger. Research shows that the chance of having a stroke is up to three times higher within the couple of hours after an angry incident. Such unhealthy displays of anger can be especially dangerous for people with brain aneurysms, as the risk of rupturing an aneurysm goes up six times after an anger-induced outburst.

Even this early into our exploration of anger’s effects on health, it’s become clear how important it is to practice anger-management techniques, such as breathing exercises, assertive communication, or even changing one’s environment when a particular occurrence leads to excessive anger.

Weakened immune system

Did you know that having persistent problems with anger and being angry most of the time can significantly diminish the strength of your immune system? Case in point, a study conducted by Harvard University shows that if a healthy person so much as recalls a particular past experience that made them angry, their antibody immunoglobulin A levels suffer a decrease that lasts for up to six hours. These antibodies are the first line of defense of your organism and, as evidenced by the aforementioned study, simply thinking about an angry event can decrease their count for a significant amount of time. Think about what the long-term effects of anger could be if you feel this emotion throughout the whole day, every day – your immune system will be significantly weakened by that, which can, in turn, lead to a number of other problems down the line.

Higher anxiety levels and more proneness to depression

Anger can also make you more susceptible to disorders such as the generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression. Even though these two are mental and not physical health problems, suffering from either (or both) of them is linked to issues with a person’s physical wellbeing.

Anger issues, the generalized anxiety disorder, and depression are all associated with heightened levels of stress hormones in the body which could, over time, make you more susceptible to diseases, infections, and other harmful conditions.

Lowered lung capacity

According to a group of scientists from Harvard University, who conducted a study of 670 men, for a period of eight years, those with a higher hostility rating showed a notably lower lung capacity compared to the other test subjects. The probable reason for this is the increased levels of stress hormones in the body of the more hostile subjects, which most likely causes inflammation in the lungs, resulting in a long-term decrease in their capacity.

While hostility and anger are not identical, they are closely connected and, in most cases, the angrier a person is, the higher their levels of hostility.

Shortened life span

With everything said thus far, it should be clear that having anger issues can significantly shorten a person’s life span, especially if that person already has some underlying health problems. Stress, in general, has a huge effect on people’s health, and one of the most common ways stress levels go up is by feeling excessive anger.

A study conducted by the University of Michigan that lasted for a period of 17 years found that couples who had healthy and constructive ways of expressing their anger and working towards solving their issues had longer life spans compared to those that would either bottle up their angry feelings or explode into uncontrolled outbursts.

Working on your anger issues

As we said at the start of this post, anger is something normal, and we all feel it from time to time. The key is to know what to do with it and to be able to control and release it without causing harm to yourself or those around you. 

The great thing is that there are a ton of methods and techniques that can help you – from very basic and easy-to-apply calming exercises to more advanced techniques that require you to look inwards and trace back the source of your anger (which is often very different from what people think it is). All that is needed is to put in some time and effort by reading about anger management from reputable sources or, better yet, by enrolling in a certified anger management class that will give you step-by-step guidance on your journey towards mastering your anger.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.