The American Psychological Association has published new research warning that anger may fuel the development of chronic illnesses in older adults. According to the study, the anger experienced by older adults was linked to increased inflammation in the body, which can pave the way for a number of serious conditions, including the development of heart disease and arthritis.
Though inflammation plays an important role in protecting one’s health, the experience of chronic inflammation has the opposite effect, causing damage that can lead to chronic, potentially life-long and even fatal health conditions. Chronic inflammation has been linked to arthritis, cardiovascular disease, the development of cancer, autoimmune issues, and more.
According to the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, chronic inflammation can happen in the absence of an injury and persist longer than a normal inflammation response. If the inflammation is not reduced, it can cause DNA damage, leading to cancer. Though some chronic inflammation causes are unknown, others have been surfaced by past research and anger is among them.
Angry outbursts have previously been linked to increased inflammation levels; frequent anger may lead to chronic inflammation, and that’s bad news for older adults, according to the latest study. Researchers studied data from 226 older adults ages 59 to 93, including inflammation levels as determined by blood samples and responses to questionnaires about anger and sadness levels.
The team found that daily anger, unlike sadness, was linked to increased inflammation in the person’s body, as well as elevated chronic illnesses in those who experienced the emotion. That increase was found in adults ages 80 and older, but not in the younger participants. Developing coping strategies and relaxation skills may help older adults better manage their anger levels and, therefore, their health.