Anger and Healing

Anger slows healing process after injury: study” is one of today’s headlines.  Here’s the main point:

Researchers at the University of Ohio inflicted minor burns on the forearms of 98 volunteers who were then monitored over eight days to see how quickly the skin repaired itself… The results were startlingly clear: individuals who had trouble controlling expressions of anger were four times likelier to need more than four days for their wounds to heal, compared with counterparts who could master their anger.

 Anger, not surprisingly, is more nuanced than an on/off state.  “Subjects described as showing ‘anger out’ (regular outbursts of aggression or hostility) or ‘anger in’ (repressed rage) healed almost as quickly as individuals who ranked low on all anger scales.”  

Indeed only one group had significantly slower healing:

Only those who tried but failed to hold in their feelings of upset and distemper took longer to heal. This same group also showed a higher secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, which could at least partly explain the difference in healing time, the study noted… High levels of cortisol appears to decrease the production at the point of injury of two cytokines crucial to the repair process, suggests the study. Cytokines are proteins released by immune-system cells. They act as signallers to generate a wider immune response.

 So, it is not so much “anger” that matters, but anger management.  Trying and failing is the key variable, not so much anger itself.  That appears to be what is stressful, the lack of control and the uncertainty, rather than experiencing anger itself. 

Here’s the abstract of the original article.

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