Cynical hostility is a personality style of cynicism and anger mismanagement in social relationships. Sometimes called chronic anger, it is associated with mistrust and weakened social support networks. In a recent study, researchers from France and University College London looked at data from a long-term study of 3,399 British civil servants. Those in the top 25% of cynical hostility levels were over four-and- a-half times more likely to be become depressed 20 years later in the follow-up.
There is some evidence to suggest that this style of coping (or not coping) with the world is increasing. Certainly levels of distrust for others are on the rise in the United States and those who seem to be the most mistrustful are also showing unprecedented reductions in their expected lifespan (“Deaths of Despair” is the term that was coined by a pair of researchers who first identified this shift).
A metaanalysis of studies looking at the connection between cynical hostility and coronary heart disease (CHD) found strong associations between hostile personality styles and increased risk of heart attacks in both healthy populations and those already showing signs of heart disease. The researchers conclude that the results support the use of psychological management focusing on anger and hostility in the prevention and treatment of CHD.
These results are consistent with other studies that show that hostile men are prone to an exaggerated and prolonged stress response, poor self-care, and heart disease. If you are wondering whether your own anger management is inappropriate, you may get some insight from this brief quiz from the web site Gracepoint Wellness. As the folks at Gracepoint warn, if you suspect that you have an anger management problem, you should seek help from a health care professional regardless of how you do on the quiz.
Practical steps that you can take immediately if you are concerned about your own anger management skills are to look carefully at some of the stress management tools recommended by Moodsurfing here and here. Also take inventory of the human relationships in your life. Social support systems are one of the most important tools in healthy living and longevity. And check out the books recommended below. These are resources that we have used with success in our practice.
Brydon L et al. Hostility and cellular aging in men from the Whitehall II cohort. Biol Psychiatry 2012 May 1; 71:767.
Yoichi C, Andrew S. The Association of Anger and Hostility With Future Coronary Heart Disease: A Meta-Analytic Review of Prospective Evidence Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 53, Issue 11, 2009.
The Anger Trap: Free Yourself from the Frustrations that Sabotage Your Life. September 2, 2004. Les Carter. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men: How to Free Yourself from the Grip of Anger and Get More Out of Life. March 27, 2000. Thomas J. Harbin. Marlowe & Co.
Transforming Anger: The Heartmath Solution for Letting Go of Rage, Frustration, and Irritation. June, 2003. Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman. New Harbinger Publications.