People who are less emotionally stable or have high anxiety levels tend to experience specific events as more stressful than others. Some experts describe an exaggerated negative response to stress as “catastrophizing” the event (turning it into a catastrophe). An overly angry or hostile response to stressful situations may be dangerous to the heart, but studies are mixed.
- Studies in 1998 and 2000 have reported an association among women between anger, irritability, and hostility and narrowing of the arteries, a major risk factor for Heart disease. The 1998 study reported that being self conscious in public and suppressing anger were also associated with this risk.
- A 1999 study further reported a link in older women between long term anger and the development of abnormal Obesity (the so-called apple shape), an important risk factor for Heart diseases.
- According to a 2000 study on Army personnel, Depression, anxiety, hostility, and stress did not appear to have any effect on atherosclerosis, the primary cause of coronary artery disease. And, another 2000 study suggested that, although anger itself posed no higher risk to the heart, outwardly expressed anger plus low social supports did appear to predict progression of Heart disease.
Lack of Social Network
The lack of an established network of family and friends predisposes one to stress disorders and stress-related health problems, including Heart disease and infections. And, a 2000 study reported that older people who maintain active relationships with their adult children are buffered against the adverse health effects of chronic stress-inducing situations, such as low income or lower social class. One study suggested this may be because people who live alone are unable to discuss negative feelings and so relieve their stress.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD