Posted on May 14, 2019, 6 p.m.
Being either angry or sad aren’t really ideal dispositions for the mind and body to be in, but which one is worse when it comes to physical health? According to a study from Concordia University and the University of Leipzig anger appears to be more harmful with potential to increase risks for heart disease, arthritis, and cancer later in life.
With age seniors may be more prone to feeling upset as their health changes and once easy tasks become more of a challenge. Those that become angry at trivial things may want to rethink the theory of keep calm and carry on, as this study shows there is good reason to learn to shrug things off rather than becoming grumpy old folks.
According to the researchers seniors who regularly show anger are more likely to have higher levels of inflammation which leads to numerous chronic illnesses. Inflammation occurs when the immune system attempts to protect the body and fight off viruses and infection after injury or illness.
“As most people age, they simply cannot do the activities they once did, or they may experience the loss of a spouse or a decline in their physical mobility and they can become angry. Our study showed that anger can lead to the development of chronic illnesses, whereas sadness did not.” says Meaghan A. Barlow.
“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. Sadness, on the other hand, was not related to inflammation or chronic illness.” says Carsten Worsch.
Data from 226 adults between the ages of 59-93 was examined; participants completed daily surveys over a week to gauge levels of sadness and anger, and they submitted blood samples to measure inflammation. Findings were published in the journal Psychology and Aging.
Sadness may be more likely to help the elderly accept physical limitations and see their conditions as a reality that requires making changes to their lives, but anger is not without any benefits.
“Anger is an energizing emotion that can help motivate people to pursue life goals. Younger seniors may be able to use that anger as fuel to overcome life’s challenges and emerging age-related losses and that can keep them healthier. Anger becomes problematic for adults once they reach 80 years old, however, because that is when many experience irreversible losses and some of life’s pleasures fall out of reach.”
Anger may be tempered through interventions such as therapy, yoga, meditation, breathing, exercise or by using coping strategies when feeling upset. Helping to educate people on the harm that anger can cause and showing them how to better cope with loss or change may help them to let go of those feelings.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement