In old age, anger can have physical manifestations such arthritis and heart disease.
Loss of loved ones and increased loneliness in old age can cause wreak havoc in the lives as well as health of the elderly people, reported DailyMail. This issue is very often overlooked and not considered as a serious problem.
Experts say that anger is possibly more damaging to the health than sadness. Research has shown that anger increases inflammation, which aggravates heart disease, arthritis and cancer. It is just as common and dangerous as other health issues, but is often largely ignored, showed a study conducted by Concordia University.
“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 and they can become angry,' said Meaghan A Barlow, MA, lead author of the study. “Our study showed that anger can lead to the development of chronic illnesses, whereas sadness did not,” she added.
The study published in ‘Psychology and Aging’ examined if anger and sadness lead to inflammation. It is usually the body’s immune response to threats like infection. Although inflammation assists in healing, long-lasting inflammation can give rise to chronic illnesses in old age, the authors said.
The research collected data from 226 participants between the ages of 59 to 93 from Montreal. 59 to 79 were classified as early old age, and 80 years old and above were classified advanced old age. During the course of the study, the participants answered questionnaires about how angry or sad they felt. Accordingly, authors measured inflammation from blood samples of the participants.
“We found that experiencing anger daily was related to higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness for people 80 years old and older, but not for younger seniors,' said study co-author Carsten Wrosch, PhD, also of Concordia University. “Sadness, on the other hand, was not related to inflammation or chronic illness,” he added.
This study demonstrated that negative emotions are not necessarily bad and can be beneficial under certain circumstances.
“Anger is an energising emotion that can help motivate people to pursue life goals,” said Barlow. “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. Anger becomes problematic for adults once they reach 80 years old, however, because that is when many experience irreversible losses and some of life's pleasures fall out of reach,” he explained.
Therapy to reduce anger would be beneficial for elders as it would help them in regulating their emotions. It offers them coping strategies to manage the changes that come with advancing age.
“If we better understand which negative emotions are harmful, not harmful or even beneficial to older people, we can teach them how to cope with loss in a healthy way,” said Barlow. “This may help them let go of their anger,” he added.