Researchers analyzed data from nearly 13,000 people who were followed for up to six years as part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study in four locations: Washington County, Md., suburban Minneapolis, Minn., Forsyth County, N.C. and Jackson, Miss.
Anger was measured by a 10-item questionnaire called the Speilberger Trait Anger Scale. Some of the questions asked if the individuals were hot-headed, quick-tempered, or if they felt like hitting someone when they got angry and felt annoyed when not given recognition for doing good work.
Individuals were given a score of 1 to 40 according to their answers to the questions. The average score was 16. About 8 percent of the individuals scored high, 55 percent scored moderate, and 37 percent scored low. Higher scorers were slightly younger, more likely to be men and to have less than a high school education than participants who were moderate or low scorers.
High scorers were also more likely to be smokers and drinkers. Researchers did not find any racial differences in the association between anger and coronary events. "The lack of an increase in heart attacks among individuals who had high blood pressure and high anger could have been due to the fact that high blood pressure alone is associated with heart disease and an anger-prone personality had little further effect," says Williams.
Researchers say stress management may help anger-prone individuals develop better coping skills to deal with their response to anger-provoking situations.