Increased anger can cause elevated stress levels and high blood pressure. These factors taken together have been shown to put people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. But a new study, conducted by researchers from Syracuse University, suggests that the type of anger an adolescent exhibits may directly impact their risk. “Three motivational profiles have been associated with recurring psychological stress in low-income youth and young adults: Striving to control others (agonistic striving), striving to control the self (transcendence striving), and not asserting control (dissipated striving),” said Craig K. Ewart, lead author of the study. “A social action perspective suggests that agonistic striving may increase risk for hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.”
Ewart and his colleagues evaluated 264 high school students from urban communities who were part of a larger study to measure the effects of stress on heart disease risk. The students were asked to recount a specific situation that caused them stress and give an objective solution to the problem. From this experiment, the interviewers were able to gauge the anger response style of the participants.
The researchers found that the students with agonistic personalities exhibited more anger and sadness during the interview. Additionally, this group of students showed the most energy throughout the process. The team also measured the ability of the students to regulate their emotions and again found that the agonistic students were less able to control their emotions than the transcendent group. The former exhibited higher levels of Anger Intensity, Aggression, and continuing Hostile Reaction and made less use of Constructive Problem Solving techniques when angry,” said Ewart. The agonistic group reported that they did not feel angry during the interview process. Ewart said, “However, individuals with the agonistic striving profile who did display poor anger regulation in the lab had the highest blood pressure; deficient self-regulatory capability amplified the positive association between agonistic striving and cardiovascular risk in both genders and all ethnic groups.”
Ewart, Craig K., Gavin J. Elder, Joshua M. Smyth, Martin J. Sliwinski, and Randall S. Jorgensen. “Do Agonistic Motives Matter More than Anger? Three Studies of Cardiovascular Risk in Adolescents.” Health Psychology 30.5 (2011): 510-24. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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