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On-the-Job Anger and High Blood Pressure

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March 17, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Everyone gets angry while on the clock. However, effective coping strategies at work might help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, according to a new report in the journal Psychotherapy andPsychosomatics. Experts say an open style is healthier than a covert style, particularly for middle-aged men and women.

Because anger is thought to accelerate the onset of high blood pressure, Swedish researchers explored the relationship between coping and high blood pressure in a large sample of working men and women. Almost 6,000 workers participated, from 15 to 64 years of age in over 150 occupations.

Individual coping patterns were determined by a questionnaire. Open coping was defined as strategies directed toward the aggressor and covert coping was described as strategies directed inward or at uninvolved people. High blood pressure was defined as blood pressure exceeding 160/90 or the use of high blood pressure medication.

Although the incidence of high blood pressure rose with age, there was no difference in smoking habits, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status, or work environment between those with and without high blood pressure. Also, coping style was not shown to have a relationship with high blood pressure in younger and older workers.

But in middle-aged men and women, those with low scores for open coping had a significantly higher incidence of high blood pressure. Low scores for open coping were also strongly associated with less control in the job. And in general, women reported more frequent use of covert coping strategies than men.

The authors say the data have some important implications. "There appears to be a link between covert coping and [high blood pressure]," says Lars Alfredsson, PhD, a co-author and associate professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. "And it appears that work environments with low decision latitude may facilitate covert coping styles."

Alfredsson tells WebMD that coping strategies can be improved. "Angry or upset workers should first calm down. Then they should talk with the aggressor," says Alfredsson. "This open approach is much healthier than holding it in or taking it out on spouses and children."

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