Anger and Hostility May Damage Your Lungs

Science of Road Rage Revealed

Anger and hostility can be bad for your lungs, a new study suggests.

Researchers studied 670 men age 45 to 86. Initially, they gauged anger and hostility, ranking each man on a scale of 7 to 37. Then they measured lung function—how much air could be blown out in one second—on three separate occasions over an average of eight years.

Lung function was "significantly poorer" at the outset among those deemed more angry and hostile, and it got worse with these men at each examination. The findings held up after controlling for other factors, such as smoking and education, the researchers reported yesterday in the online version of the journal Thorax.

In a separate study last year, scientists concluded that in moderate doses, anger can be good for you.

But hostility and anger have been associated with cardiovascular disease, asthma, and death in other research. Changes in mood can have short term effects on the lungs, the scientists said, and it might all have to do with anger and hostility altering neurological and hormonal processes, which in turn might disturb immune system activity, producing chronic inflammation, the scientists said.

Another study last year found that marital spats and household hostility can cause physical wounds to heal more slowly.

"Indeed it is hard to find a disease for which emotion or stress plays absolutely no part in symptom severity, frequency, or intensity of flare-ups," said Dr. Paul Lehrer of the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey.

But Lehrer, writing in an accompanying editorial for Thorax, said associations do not necessarily imply cause and effect.

"Personality, as well as physiology, can change over time, and deterioration in health and physical function can lead to negative emotion as well as vice versa, including for respiratory diseases."

Robert Roy Britt

Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.