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How Anger Directly Affects Your Health

Emotions are not only distracting, but they can interfere with reason and cause you to make decisions or take actions that end up being hazardous to your health. Here are three of the primary behaviors that can directly result from uncontrolled anger.

Unsafe sex

Most people are well aware of the hazards associated with unprotected sexual intercourse, having sex with multiple partners, or having sex while under the influence of drugs. You know that all these behaviors raise your odds of becoming HIV-infected and possibly dying of AIDS (not to mention contracting other sexually transmitted diseases [STDs]).

High-risk sex, it turns out, is often accompanied by anger. When women, for example, are presented with an opportunity for unsafe sex — and they are not angry at the time — they typically abstain or take reasonable precautions such as using a condom. They weigh the consequences and act accordingly. But if they are mad — for example, at a parent who has forbidden them to continue a relationship with their boyfriend — all that reason flies out the window. It's the old "I'll show you I can do anything I want with whomever I want — so there!" mentality.

On-the-job injuries

You'll likely spend most of your adult life working. So if you're injured, it's most likely to occur on the job — and that's true no matter what you do for a living. So, what does that have to do with anger? As it turns out, a whole lot.

Here's what we know about on-the-job injuries:

  • Up to a third of people who were injured on the job admit that they were experiencing some level of anger prior to the injury.
  • The angrier they were at the time, the more likely they were to be injured.
  • If they were extremely irritated, they were five times more likely to be injured than if they weren't irritated at all.
  • If they were extremely angry, they were seven times more likely to be injured than if they weren't angry.
  • If they were in a rage, they were 12 times more likely to be injured than if you weren't in a rage.
  • Anger is more likely to lead to injury in men.
  • Anger increases the odds of your injuring another employee and inflicting injury on yourself.
  • Anger and alcohol use prior to injury are highly linked, and both independently increase a person's odds of being injured on the job.

Road rage

Anger is hazardous to driving and if you're a self-professed high-anger driver, do yourself a favor and get some help.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates — conservatively — that, between 1990 and 1996, road rage caused 218 traffic fatalities and over 12,000 injuries. Even more alarming is their estimate that this problem is increasing yearly by somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. Bottom line: You may literally be putting your life in someone else's hands every time you get behind the wheel.

Road rage isn't about the road — it's about rage. High-anger drivers typically demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • They're highly judgmental of other people's driving.
  • They have contempt for how others drive.
  • They have more vengeful thoughts about other drivers.
  • They take more risks while driving — speeding, switching lanes, tailgating, running yellow lights.
  • They experience anger on a daily basis, aka "chronic anger".
  • They're more likely to get in the car already angry.
  • They tend to express their anger outwardly — yelling, honking, finger pointing, tailgating.
  • They have less control of their emotions in general.
  • They tend to react impulsively when frustrated.

Most of the things in life we call accidents really aren't accidents. And some people are really just accidents waiting to happen. Be honest about yourself about your own road rage — you could not only be saving your life, but also the lives of everyone else on the road with you.

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