Scientists from the University of Konstanz found that high blood pressure has a strong link with people’s emotions.
The research is published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine and was conducted by Alisa Auer et al.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a disease. However, in the majority of cases, there is no clear medical explanation, referred to as “essential hypertension”.
Essential hypertension is high blood pressure that doesn’t have a known secondary cause. It’s also referred to as primary hypertension.
In the study, the team tested male participants over several years to better understand the psychological factors in high blood pressure.
They found that compared to a healthy control group, men with essential hypertension more often recognized angry expressions when they looked into the faces of others.
In addition, this anger recognition bias seems to contribute to blood pressure increases over time if someone tends to frequently and intensively experience anger. This tendency is called “trait anger”.
In their study, researchers presented different pictures of people who were angry. However, the pictures did not just display anger alone, but combined anger with one of three other emotions: fear, happiness, and sadness.
The background for this approach is that, in everyday life, people’s faces rarely show just one emotion. Mixed emotions are more prevalent. Participants were asked which emotion they saw in the pictures.
The team found high blood pressure men recognized anger more often than any other emotion
They overrated anger displayed in other people’s faces as compared to the healthy control group.
The team says overrating anger displayed by other persons seems to affect whether high ‘trait anger’ contributes to blood pressure increases over time.
Hence, interpersonal factors seem to play a role in essential hypertension.
The team hopes their findings can help improve the treatment of essential hypertension.
The treatment can address a person’s perception of social environments in order to protect them from other people´s anger.
Such therapeutic interventions would be important, because blood pressure lowering medication only treats the consequences of hypertension, but does not address potential causes.
In addition, hypertension is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.
What about women? The researchers hope that future studies will include women.
Since women may possibly differ in their emotion recognition from men and as fewer women suffer from hypertension, the study initially focused on men.
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