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Social Costs Of Anger

Harry Mills, Ph.D.

In addition to physical health costs, there are significant social and emotional costs to being angry all the time. Hostile, angry people are less likely to have healthy supportive relationships than are less hostile people. Because they are constantly angry, hostile people tend to have fewer friends. Hostile people are also more likely to be depressed, and they are more likely to become verbally and/or physically abusive towards others. Most importantly, chronic anger reduces the intimacy within personal relationships; partners and other family members tend to be more guarded and less able to relax in their interactions with hostile people.

While this may not sound like a bad fate to suffer, consider that research consistently shows that having healthy supportive relationships with family, friends, coworkers and colleagues is quite important for maintaining health. Having the social support of one's peers helps to ward off emotional problems and serious health conditions, including heart disease. People are less likely to experience debilitating depression when they have strong social support.

Angry people frequently have cynical attitudes toward others and are unable to recognize or utilize support when it is available. Because hostile people don’t realize the impact their behavior has on others, they don’t realize that they are pushing people away when they refuse or ridicule genuine attempts at helpfulness. Angry people also tend to drink, smoke, and eat more than their less angry counterparts. Without a social network of people to dampen these tendencies, the probability of serious health consequences is high.

Anger's physiological response and arousal evolved to help people handle physical threats. In today's world, however, there are not very many places where physical aggression is an appropriate response. This is particularly true in the more public parts of your life, including your workplace interactions. Verbally assaulting your boss will likely get you fired. Similarly, jumping out of your car to attack a motorist who cut you off could land you in court. Uncontrolled anger can result in loss of employment, loss of one’s family, and even incarceration. Individuals who cannot get a grip on their disruptive, aggressive behavior are likely to suffer not only increased risks for health problems but serious social problems as well.