"Young adults with a short temper or mean disposition also tend to have compromised lung function, says a recent study (published in the journal Health Psychology), by the American Psychological Association ... The results indicated that the more hostile one's personality -- characterized by aggression or anger, for example -- the lower [the levels of one's] lung function even after controlling for age, height, socioeconomic status, smoking status and presence of asthma."
Now the serious health risks posed by chronic exposure to hostility are not news. However, this study -- done with 4,629 eighteen-to-thirty-year-olds who were grouped by black/white ethnicity and male/female gender -- is in my opinion particularly important. For four reasons:
1. Because it uses two easily verifiable and easily quantifiable objective signs -- forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) -- as indicators of lung function
2. Because lung function is a reliable risk marker for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which was the sixth leading cause of death worldwide as of 1990 and is expected to be in third place by 2020
3. Because pulmonary function reaches its peak in young adulthood, making even small differences at that stage of life deserving of close attention
4. Because the study is written with meticulous care and attention to every aspect of the issue, and is without even a hint of polemic
Unlike many of these medical news stories, this one provides the URL for the original paper. "Does Harboring Hostility Hurt? Associations Between Hostility and Pulmonary Function in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults (CARDIA) Study," by Benita Jackson et al., Journal of Health Psychology 2007 26:3; 333-340 is at http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/hea263333.pdf .
Here's one brief quote from page 334:
"Hostility has been associated with a wide array of health risk factors, ranging from dysregulated neuroendocrine function to smoking behavior to alcohol consumption to social isolation (Siegler et al., 2003)."
[Note: The Siegler reference is "I.C. Siegler et al., 2003, "Patterns of change in hostility from college to midlife in the UNC Alumni Heart Study predict high-risk status," in Psychosomatic Medicine 65:738-745. Also cited: T.Q. Miller et al., 1996, "A meta-analytic review of research on hostility and physical health," in Psychological Bulletin 119:322-348.]