Young adults who harbor hostility or anger are more likely to suffer from lung disease, according to a paper published in Health Psychology (2007; 26 , 333–40). Researchers studied 4,629 adults—black and white, ages 18–30, from four cities—to determine whether a relationship exists between hostility levels and lung health. Scientists controlled for variables such as smoking, asthma, age, height and socioeconomic status.
Data analysis showed a clear association between hostility and lung health. The researchers identified possible causal mechanisms as stimulation of the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system response to feelings of anger; increases in blood levels of cortisol; and a detrimental impact on the immune system from repeated bouts of stress.“It’s remarkable to see reductions in lung function during a time of life we think of as healthy for most people. Right now, we can’t say if having a hostile personality causes lung function decline, though we now know that these things happen together,” says Benita Jackson, PhD, MPH, of Smith College and lead author of the study. Jackson said further research was needed.