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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
Anger 'compromises lung function'
Scrunched fist (Science Photo Library)
The angrier men had worse lung function
Anger can damage lung function, according to research.

A US team followed 670 male military veterans and found those with high levels of hostility had poorer lung function than their happier peers.

The scientists also found that the angriest men suffered a more rapid decline in lung capacity.

Writing in the journal Thorax, the team said their findings could help develop new ways of targeting lung disease screening and prevention strategies.

Healthcare providers should be aware that your emotional state can play a role in lung health over time
Dr Rosalind Wright

Scientists looked at men aged between 45 and 86 from the US Veterans Administration Normative Ageing Study.

The volunteers had had their levels of hostility measured in 1986 through a series of questionnaires, which indicated their longer term emotional state, the researchers said.

Their lung function was also measured and then analysed at routine intervals over an average period of just over eight years.

Dr Rosalind Wright of Harvard Medical School, who led the research, said: "The men with higher levels of hostility had lower lung function at this baseline point in 1986, but they also showed a more rapid rate of decline over time."

Other studies had shown that a rapid decline in lung function was linked to increased susceptibility to debilitating lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease, and increased mortality.

New interventions

But she said that, because the group were all ex-military, mainly white and of a lower socio-economic status, the findings could not be applied to the wider population.

The researchers believe that anger and hostility could be affecting neurological and hormonal processes, which in turn could cause chronic inflammation in some of the body's systems, such as the lungs.

However, Dr Wright said the study showed an association between anger and lung disease, rather than a cause and effect relationship.

She said: "Healthcare providers should be aware that your emotional state can play a role in lung health over time.

"It could change the way we think about screening for risk factors and could inform different types of interventions - such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Dr John Moore-Gillon, a lung specialist and spokesman for the British Thoracic Society, said: "This is a fascinating piece of work.

"There does seem to be a link between long-term anger and hostility and decline in the functioning of the lungs.

"Whether the decline is actually caused by the emotion or whether they are both caused by a third, unrecognised factor is not yet certain.

"The research highlights our growing awareness of the close links between the mind and the body, and the years to come may lead to further important insights."

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