Under my byline

Patriot games

Posted in Health, Living by Rrishi on 22 March 2009

Varun Gandhi in PilibhitAngry words landed Varun Gandhi in trouble, but anger can also be physically harmful

Reading transcripts of Varun Gandhi’s alleged comments about his fellow citizens at an election rally in UP this week was enough to make the blood boil. But Gandhi, the BJP’s candidate for Pilibhit, seemed to have anger enough of his own. Surely he’s doing himself no good — whether or not the electorate approves.

Researchers have found, unsurprisingly, that people prefer to feel pleasant emotions. But a study published last year in Psychological Science suggests, also not surprisingly, that in some situations unpleasant emotions can be useful.

Volunteers were given one of two computer games to play. One was the highly confrontational Soldier of Fortune, in which the player has to shoot and kill his enemies. The other was the considerably more mellow Diner Dash, in which the player has to guide a waitress while she serves customers. The players were then asked about the activities they would prefer to engage in before playing the game allotted to them.

For Soldier of Fortune, players picked activities that would boost their anger levels, like listening to anger-inducing music and remembering events that had made them angry in the past. For Diner Dash, players chose nicer activities. The researchers then randomly assigned pre-game activities.

The result? Players who undertook aggression-boosting pre-game activities did better at the confrontational game than those who got calmer activities, while neither group did better at the non-confrontational game.

So it is plausible that by working himself up in those allegedly hate-filled speeches, Gandhi was boosting his aggression for the confrontational game of electoral politics. His eye was on the immediate goal.

Long-term, however, he may have been doing himself grave harm. Especially among men, a study just published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology says, anger and hostility are linked to high risk, up to five times higher, of coronary heart disease (CHD).

The link is an even better predictor of CHD than other well-known risk factors like smoking, drinking and being overweight. Angry people are stressed, and over time the stress damage to the body accumulates. The immune system may also suffer, and diabetes is another potential risk.

Fittingly, a good long-term solution to anger is positive social interaction, so that the angry person can begin to develop a healing trust in others. Of course, this may not happen if Varun Gandhi does make his way into Parliament.

(I use Science Daily as my first stop for medical research info.)


One Response

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  1. NIKHIL SHARMA said, on 5 October 2009 at 5:17 pm


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