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Anger and Stress

November 28, 2005

When challenged, do you usually respond with anger or fear? A new study suggests one may be healthier than the other.


Can anger be healthy? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Responding to a challenge with an angry outlook may be healthier than responding with fear. Experimental psychologist Jennifer Lerner from Carnegie Mellon and her colleagues had volunteers do stressful tasks, like counting backwards by 13. They found that people who reacted with angry or indignant facial expressions actually had lower blood pressure, heart rates, and stress hormones than people who showed fear on their faces. Lerner says anger seems to help people feel calm and in control.

JENNIFER LERNER (Carnegie Mellon):
Ugh!—you know, it’s an indignation response associated with anger and disgust that brings about we think this sense of control, some feelings of power, certainty…

On the other hand, those who are fearful may feel powerless, and therefore more stressed. Lerner says this knowledge may lead to new approaches to treating stress.
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.