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Hostility boosts risk of heart trouble.

Hostility boosts risk of heart trouble

Anger, mistrust and aggression may be what it takes to get ahead on Wall Street, but research suggests it may be a ticket to an early death. Studies by Redford B. Williams Jr. of the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and his colleagues suggest that high scores on a psychological test designed to measure hostility predict heart disease. High hostility scores also boost the risk of death from all causes, Williams finds.

His evidence is culled from several studies, including one that looked at 255 male physicians. The researchers found that doctors who had scored higher on a hostility test given during medical school were more likely to die during the 25-year follow-up period than were their more relaxed peers. Only 2 percent of physicians with low or average hostility scores died, while 14 percent of doctors with above-average hostility died during the same period.

A study of lawyers echoed those findings. Lawyers with the lowest hostility scores in law school had a mortality rate of about 4 percent, while 20 percent of those with the highest scores died during a 25-year follow-up study.

Many researchers in the 1970s believed that "Type A" behavior, characterized by hard-driving aggression and impatience, was a predictor of heart disease. But the theory has been challenged by a number of studies that failed to show a link between Type A personality and heart disease.

Williams believes hostility is the crucial component of the Type A personality and a potent predictor of heart trouble. Hostile people are more likely to meet daily challenges with large increases in blood pressure. Situations that annoy the average person may produce sharp increases in blood pressure and a surge of adrenaline in the hostile Type A person. Over the years, the hostile Type A individual may be placing a heavy burden on his or her cardiovascular system, Williams says.

Williams' advice to lawyers, doctors and other hard-driving types: Get rid of the anger and mistrust. People who trust others, he says, are more likely to live longer than the cynics of the world.
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Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 28, 1989
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