Can Anger Be Helpful?: Soldier Perceptions of the Utility of Anger

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Studies have found that soldiers returning from combat deployment report elevated levels of anger and aggression. The present study examined the perception that anger was helpful in performing occupationally related duties and whether this perception was associated with mental health problems, somatic symptoms, and functioning. Soldiers (N = 627) completed a survey 4 months after their deployment to Afghanistan and again 3 months later. When examining anger over time, findings revealed four groups of different latent classes: low stable (resilient), high stable (chronic), decreasing over time (improved), and increasing over time (delayed problems). For two of the groups (chronic and delayed problems), perceiving anger as helpful was closely related to anger reactions. Perceiving anger as helpful was also associated with worse mental health symptoms. Further work in understanding how to mitigate this positive perception of anger in prevention initiatives may be useful in addressing anger reactions.

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