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Anger May Lead To Inflammation & Sickness Later On In Life

Caroline Muggia
May 9, 2019
Caroline Muggia
By Caroline Muggia
mbg Contributor
Caroline Muggia is a writer, environmental advocate, and registered yoga teacher (E-RYT) with a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College.
Image by Mauro Grigollo / Stocksy
May 9, 2019

We know what we think has a direct impact on how we feel. If we're thinking about all the negative things that happened in our day, for example, there's a good chance we'll start to feel physically tense. But how does this affect our health over time?

A new study led by the American Psychological Association found that anger was more detrimental than sadness when it comes to increased inflammation and the risk of chronic illness in older people.

To find this, the researchers studied a group of adults ages 59 to 93 and recorded their frequency of feelings of anger and sadness, asked whether or not they had chronic illnesses, and tested their levels of inflammation.

"We found that experiencing anger daily was related to higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness for people 80 years old and older, but not for younger seniors," said study co-author Carsten Wrosch, Ph.D., of Concordia University in a statement. "Sadness, on the other hand, was not related to inflammation or chronic illness."

The study suggests that the reason younger seniors may be less susceptible to anger-related inflammation and chronic illness is that they feel as though they can still take action and do something about their anger whereas the older folks may not have the ability to make changes as quickly, and the negative emotion can build.

These findings point to the importance of developing better coping strategies for older adults to deal with challenges that feel out of their control, so they can reduce anger and their risk of developing chronic illnesses.

While this research was done on an older population, it's essential that younger folks take note. Recent research supports this link between our emotions and physical health as it found that suppressing emotions such as anger, sadness, and grief may lead to unhealthy cortisol levels as well as heart disease, IBS, and anxiety and depression.

So what can we do about it? Well, studies show that speaking through our feelings with a trusted source can help lower our cortisol levels. If you're thinking "the last thing I want to do is talk about how I'm feeling," you're not alone, and luckily, expressive work like writing, dancing, drawing, and singing may do the trick.

Whether you're feeling more positive emotions or negative emotions today, it's worth thinking about how different emotions make you feel. Notice how your physical body feels when you're feeling happy and supported—how about when you're feeling angry and shamed? By getting more in tune with how your body reacts to different emotions you may have a better chance of releasing negative ones before they start to wear you down.

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Caroline Muggia author page.
Caroline Muggia

Caroline Muggia has a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College. She received her E-RYT with Yoga Works and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. A writer and environmental advocate, she is passionate about helping people live healthier and more sustainable lives. You can usually find her drinking matcha or spending time by the ocean.