Varieties of Anger and the Inverse Link Between Education and Inflammation: Toward an Integrative Framework

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Abstract

Objective

To examine multiple aspects of anger experience and expression (frequency, outward expression, suppression, and control) as moderators of the association of social inequality, as measured by educational status, with inflammation and coagulation markers.

Methods

After survey assessments via telephone and mail, Midlife in the United States respondents (N = 1054) participated in an overnight clinic visit, where they completed anger questionnaires and provided a fasting blood sample to measure interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and fibrinogen.

Results

Educational status was linked to higher anger control among men (B = 0.14, p = .001). Significant inverse correlations emerged between education and IL-6, CRP, and fibrinogen (r values ≥ −0.09, p values <.004) and between anger control and IL-6 and CRP (r values = −0.07, p values < .03). Controlling for demographic and health status covariates, anger-in predicted lower fibrinogen (p = .03). Interactions between education and anger measures were significant for education and trait anger as related to fibrinogen (p = .02) and education and anger-out as related to IL-6 (p = .05) and fibrinogen (p = .05). As predicted, the inverse relationships between education and IL-6 and fibrinogen were stronger among individuals reporting high anger. Anger control also moderated the association of education with IL-6 in women (p = .026), such that the link between education and IL-6 was attenuated among women with high anger control.

Conclusions

Varieties of anger moderated educational gradients in inflammation: The inverse relationships between education and inflammation markers were strongest among individuals with high anger and were attenuated among those with high anger control.

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