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Simmer Down Anger to Avoid Injury

Anger Makes Injuries More Likely, Study Shows
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 31, 2006 -- When anger bubbles up, cooling it back down could help you stay safe.

Injuries often follow anger, researchers report in the Annals of Family Medicine. They found that people tended to report feeling particularly angry right before getting injured.

The study included more than 2,400 injured people in Boone County, Mo. The researchers included David Vinson, MD, MSPH, of the University of Missouri-Columbia's department of family and community medicine.

Shortly after emergency treatment for their wounds, patients were asked about their emotions just before their injury and a day earlier. Both men and women generally admitted feeling angrier right before their injuries.

Primed for Injury

Anger was especially linked to intentional injuries, including fight wounds. But anger wasn't linked to injuries from falls or traffic accidents.

How angry were the injured people? Nearly a third reported feeling some degree of irritation right before their injury. Almost one in five reported feeling "angry" (18%) and more than one in 10 reported feeling "hostile" in that same moment (13%) -- at levels ranging from "a little" to "extremely."

It's normal to feel anger. How you handle your feelings may be what matters most. If anger often runs high, counseling may show new solutions.

Alcohol and anger were an explosive mix in Vinson's study. "Drinking during the previous six hours was strongly associated with injury risk," the researchers write.

Low Boil

Were the injured people particularly hotheaded? To find out, the researchers interviewed more than 1,800 uninjured people in the same area.

Those people expressed a surprising amount of anger, Vinson's team found. A third of uninjured participants described themselves as "irritable," and more than one in 10 called themselves "angry." Most noted mild anger -- below the threshold tied to injury risk.

In both groups, men were more likely than women to call themselves angry, the study shows.

"Anger is a complex emotion," write Vinson and colleagues, who call their findings "tentative." It's hard to study anger as it unfolds, and people may misremember their true emotions -- especially after getting hurt by someone else -- the researchers note.

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