Health :: Hostile men have poorer lung function

Men with short fuses may also be short of breath linking hostile temperament to poorer lung function.

Numerous reports have tied chronic anger and hostility to an increased risk of heart disease. The following study appears to be the first to connect hostility to a long-term decline in lung function.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, USA, followed 670 older men for 8 years and found that those with hostile temperaments showed a greater decrease in lung function compared with their more laid-back peers. Hostility was gauged with a standard questionnaire that asks about the respondent’s tendency to be resentful, cynical and suspicious of other people’s motives. On average, men who scored high on the hostility scale performed more poorly on lung function tests at the study’s outset, and then showed a steeper decline over time.

The findings do not prove that hostility harms lung health, but the researchers did adjust the data for other factors that could affect respiratory function – including smoking, weight and heart disease. None of these changed the relationship between hostile temperament and lung health.

The results suggest that the health effects of hostility go beyond the heart. As people age, a rapid decline in lung function can raise the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis – as well as heart disease and premature death. There are a number of physiological reasons to believe chronic anger and hostility could affect lung health. Like chronic stress in general, hostility may overstimulate components of the nervous and hormonal systems, which in turn could damage the respiratory system over time.

Chronic hostility may also affect the immune system in a way that leads to long-term inflammation in the airways. Hostility may enhance inflammation in the lungs in the same way cigarette smoke does.

October 2006

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