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Always Angry? Lungs May Age Faster

Lung Function May Fade Faster in Chronically Hostile Men, Study Shows
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 30, 2006 -- Being angry all the time may speed up agingaging in the lungs, a new study shows.

"The role of hostility in pulmonary health deserves a closer look," write Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, and colleagues in Thorax.

Kubzansky works at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. She and her team studied 670 men for about eight years, on average.

When the study started, the men were 45-86 years old (average age: 62). All lived in the Boston area; most were white.

First, the men completed a 50-item hostility questionnaire. The survey covered suspiciousness, resentment, cynicism, and mistrust. Higher scores indicated more hostility.

The men's hostility scores ranged from 7 to 37 (average score: 18.5). Fewer than a third had high hostility scores.

Next, the men got lung checkups, with follow-up lung tests every three to five years.

Hostility Unhealthy for Lungs?

The most hostile men had the worst lung function at the study's start. Their lung function also declined faster than mellower men.

Lung function naturally fades with age. But the decline was steeper in hostile men, the study shows.

Hostile men were more likely to have ever been smokers. But adjusting for smoking didn't change the results.

Still, the study doesn't prove that hostility hurts lungs.

The men only took the hostility survey once. So it's not clear if their personalities brightened up later.

It's perfectly normal to feel anger every now and then. But chronic anger may be an issue, notes Paul Lehrer, PhD, in a Thorax editorial.

Lehrer works at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

While the exact science isn't clear yet, "it's not hard to imagine how the wear and tear associated with chronic anger could cause chronic dysregulation and, ultimately, physical deterioration," Lehrer writes.

In other words, chronic hostility, which has been associated with other health conditions, may be harsh on the lungs.

Since the study mainly featured white men who were at least middle-aged, it's not clear if the findings apply to other groups.

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