In a new study, researchers examined how negative emotions, such as anger and sadness, could influence health in older people.
They found that anger may be more harmful to physical health than sadness.
This is because anger may increase inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
The research was conducted by a team from Concordia University.
Inflammation is an immune response by the body to perceived threats.
Previous research has shown that inflammation helps protect the body and assists in healing, but long-lasting inflammation may lead to chronic illnesses in old age.
In the study, the team examined whether anger and sadness could cause inflammation.
They tested 226 older adults ages 59 to 93 from Montreal.
Over one week, these people completed short questionnaires about how angry or sad they felt.
The team also measured inflammation from blood samples and asked participants if they had any age-related chronic illnesses.
They found that experiencing anger daily was linked to higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness for people 80 years old and older, but not for younger people.
On the other hand, Sadness was not related to inflammation or chronic illness.
The researchers explain that as most people age, they simply cannot do the activities they once did, or they may experience the loss of a spouse or a decline in their physical mobility.
These things can make them become angry, which can lead to the development of chronic illnesses.
But sadness may help older seniors adjust to challenges such as age-related physical and cognitive declines.
It can help them disengage from goals that are no longer attainable.
The team also suggests that not all negative emotions are inherently bad and that they can be beneficial sometimes.
For example, younger seniors may be able to use that anger as fuel to overcome life’s challenges and emerging age-related losses and that can keep them healthier.
To them, anger is an energizing emotion that can help motivate people to pursue life goals.
The researchers suggest that education and therapy may help older adults reduce anger.
It is important to regulate their emotions and teach them better coping strategies to manage the inevitable changes in life.
The lead author of the study is Meaghan A. Barlow, MA, of Concordia University.
The study is published in Psychology and Aging.
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