The study, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, shows that anger can lead to the development of chronic illnesses whereas sadness did not.
“Sadness may help older seniors adjust to challenges such as age-related physical and cognitive declines because it can help them disengage from goals that are no longer attainable”, said study lead author Meaghan A Barlow from the Concordia University in the US.
For the study, the researchers analysed data from 226 older adults ages 59 to 93 from Montreal, Canada and grouped participants as being in early old age (59 to 79 years old) or advanced old age (80 years or older).
During the study, participants completed questionnaires about how angry or sad they felt.
The research examined whether anger and sadness contributed to inflammation, an immune response by the body to perceived threats, such as infection or tissue damage.
“We found that experiencing anger daily was related to higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness for people aged 80 or above, but not for younger seniors,” added study co-author Carsten Wrosch.
“Younger seniors may be able to use that anger as fuel to overcome life’s challenges and emerging age-related losses and that can keep them healthier”, Barlow added.
The researchers suggest that education and therapy might help older adults reduce anger by regulating their emotions or by offering better coping strategies to manage the inevitable changes that accompany ageing.