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Anger - Get over it or get it off your chest
By
Connie Fan, CBC
Canadians are angrier than they were just a year ago, according to a series of recent polls by Angus Reid Strategies. The list of pet peeves is long, but what's really ticking off Canadians these days are queue-jumpers, inconsiderate dog walkers, people who disrespect their elders and telemarketers.

According to the pollster, almost half of Canadians think their fellow citizens are angrier than they were last year, and one in four admit to losing their own temper more often now than in the past.

In case you haven't noticed, women and young adults seem especially irritable: 30 per cent of women and 32 per cent of those age 18 to 34 say they are more inclined to lose their temper now than they used to be.

Why is that? There are many reasons, but Kathryn Jennings, a counsellor at Anger Management Counselling Practice in Toronto, suspects the increasing use of computers and technology is shortening our patience.

"With technology, our lives are faster, access is faster, and a lot of our needs are met immediately," she says. "It has made our expectations higher. We expect that things should work and should work quickly."

And when they don't, we get frustrated just as quickly.

Jennings often counsels people in Toronto who experience road rage, which she says is one example of anger caused by unrealistic expectations.

"In a city of 2.5 million people, why would you expect not to get cut off?" she says. "It's not reasonable."

The value of venting

Whether or not it is reasonable, we are letting things get to us, and that can be bad news on the health front. Anger puts people at high risk for cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 cause of death in Canada.

For men, bottling it up makes it even worse. Males can reduce the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease by letting out their anger, according to a 2003 Harvard study.
Researchers tracked 23,500 male health care professionals, age 50 to 85, with no previous record of cardiovascular disease for two years. They found that the men who suppressed their anger were twice as likely to suffer strokes and heart attacks as men who expressed anger at moderate levels.

Women also benefit from venting but only if they do it once in a while. Women who usually suppress their anger recover their blood pressure more quickly after venting than those who usually express it, according to a 1992 study by Canadian researchers Josanna Lai and Wolfgang Linden.

Still not a good thing

Whether you suppress it or express it, anger is still bad for your health. Women fall into depression, and men turn to aggression, psychologists and neuroscientists say, and both states are dangerous for cardiac health.

Anxiety is particularly predictive of cardiovascular disease in women, and hostility particularly predictive for men, according to a 2004 Long Island University study.
Anger is linked not only to cardiovascular disease but also to Type 2 diabetes. The physiological link is still unclear, but research suggests that a lack of insulin, a hormone that regulates glucose levels, may play a role in females.

A 2006 study by Edward Suarez of Duke University found that depression, hostility and anger expression correspond to higher levels of insulin, insulin resistance and glucose in women.

Abnormal glucose metabolism is linked to both diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which means that women who lose their temper easily run a higher risk of both.

Overreacting

All in all, Jennings says, anger is not worth it.

"The problem with anger is that it triggers our fight or flight response," she said, referring to a physiological state of heightened arousal in reaction to a threat. "And this response is supposed to be reserved for life or death situations.

"So whatever the trigger is, we react the same way as we would if someone kidnapped our child. The trigger can be intensely, ridiculously overrated."

Which is why even small things like getting cut off in traffic can prompt a violent response.
Getting mad may seem natural, but anger is damaging both psychologically and physiologically. So for the sake of your health, the next time someone cuts in line or the telemarketer calls, let it go.

And if you can't, then let it out.






 

 

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