Women who do not show the anger they feel could be making a deadly mistake, a Michigan researcher says.
A survey of 372 women and 324 men found that women who habitually suppress high levels of anger are three times more likely to die than those who do not, although the same is not true for men, Mara Julius of the University of Michigan School of Public Health said Sunday.During an 18-year period, women in Julius' study who scored high on a scale of suppressed anger had triple the death rate of those who scored low, she told a meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.
Among men, however, anger suppression appeared to play a role in mortality rates only for those who had high blood pressure or chronic bronchial conditions, she said.
Men with systolic blood pressure of 140 and above who tended not to show their anger had twice the death rate of those with high blood pressure but low suppressed anger scores, Julius found. Men with bronchial conditions and high suppressed anger also had double the mortality risk.
The study also discovered that men with a high degree of suppressed anger but low blood pressure were four times less likely to die than those who were both angry and did not show it and had high blood pressure. Julius said that indicates anger itself does not appear to be a mortality risk for men.
Those in the study ranged in age between 30 and 69 in 1971. Julius tracked their mortality rates through 1989, adjusting for age, weight, blood pressure, the condition of their lungs and bronchial passages, education and smoking habits. During the study period, 17.3 percent of the men and 9.4 percent of women died.
To determine the levels of their anger and how they showed it, Julius asked the study participants to describe how angry they would feel if their spouses yelled at them for something they did not do or if a policeman did the same thing. They also were asked to choose a phrase describing how vigorously they would protest.
Julius found that about 40 percent of each sex was likely to react by trying not to show anger. However, "men were more likely to report suppressing anger in the marital confrontation while women were more likely to report suppressing anger in the policeman confrontation," she said.