Contrary to popular belief prevalent in Western societies, researchers have found that anger is actually linked with better, not worse health, in certain cultures.
Greater anger is associated with better biological health among Japanese people, the findings showed.
“The truism linking anger to ill health may be valid only within the cultural boundary of the ‘West,’ where anger functions as an index of frustration, poverty, low status and everything else that potentially compromises health,” said psychological scientist Shinobu Kitayama from University of Michigan.
For the study, the researchers examined survey data drawn from participants in the US and Japan.
To measure health, the researchers looked at biomarkers for inflammation and cardiovascular functioning, both of which have been linked to anger expression in previous research.
The combination of these two factors served as a measure of overall biological health risk.
The researchers also looked at measures that gauged various aspects of anger, including how often participants expressed angry feelings through verbally or physically aggressive behaviours.
The data revealed that greater anger expression was associated with increased biological health risk among US participants, as previous studies have shown.
But greater anger expression was associated with reduced biological health risk among Japanese participants.
“The association between greater anger and compromised biological health, taken for granted in the current (Western) literature, was completely reversed so that greater anger was associated with better biological health among Japanese,” Kitayama said.
“These findings show how socio-cultural factors go under the skin to influence vital biological processes,” Kitayama said.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.