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Does Anger Lower Your Lung Function?

Here’s even more reason to take a deep breath and let anger slide: The American Psychological Association Journal has published a study led by Smith College psychologist Benita Jackson testing whether a relationship exists between levels of hostility and lung function — the reduction of which can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

The data pool consisted of 4,629 healthy adults between 18 and 30, living in Minneapolis, Birmingham, Chicago, and Oakland. Subjects were asked to blow into a machine to determine lung function, then answer a 50-item questionnaire agreeing or disagreeing with statements like “I am easily angered.” The results showed that, after adjusting for age, socioeconomic status, smoking and asthma, higher hostility scores were consistently associated with lower lung function for black men, black women and white women. The association was not present, however, in white men.

While Jackson and her team tested for smoking, they left out a host of other environmental factors; there is also the possibility that breathing problems lead to anger rather than vice versa. Still, the idea that negative emotions can lead to health problems is supported by other research.

(Hat tip: British Psychological Society blog.)