Teens who constantly suppress feelings of anger or lose their tempers are more likely to be overweight than teens who are better at controlling their anger, new research reports.
Teens who constantly suppress feelings of anger or lose their tempers are more likely to be overweight than teens who are better at controlling their anger, new research reports. “The more dysfunctional the anger, the heavier the person,” study author Dr. William Mueller told Reuters Health. Mueller explained that teens who have trouble expressing their anger in a healthy way may isolate themselves from peers by staying inside and engaging in less physical activity, or may calm themselves by eating fatty foods — both behaviors that can lead to weight gain. Alternatively, overweight teens may carry excess anger as a result of being teased or treated differently because of their size, Mueller noted. “Kids who are overweight are somewhat angry about that,” he said. He added that interventions designed to help teens lose weight often focus on diet and exercise, and neglect the emotional factors that can influence weight. Based on these results, Mueller suggested that counselors consider helping overweight teens find better ways to control their anger – for example, teaching them how to avoid taking a jibe or rude comment personally. During the study, Mueller and his colleagues followed 160 people between the ages of 14 and 17 for three years, noting their body weight. Once a year, participants completed a questionnaire designed to measure how they typically handle feelings of anger. The investigators found that teens who tend to either over-express anger — for instance, lose their tempers — or suppress their anger in all circumstances but have poor control over their feelings of anger, tended to weigh more than others. And the more teens appeared to control their anger well and express it in healthy ways, the less they weighed, according to the study findings, presented last week during the American Heart Association (AHA) 44th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. Mueller, who is based at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, in the School of Public Health, noted that research in adults suggests that both suppressing and showing outbursts of anger can increase the risk of heart attack. Consequently, he suggested that teens with poor anger management skills who are also overweight may be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease than other overweight teens who can handle their anger well. In an interview with Reuters Health, AHA spokesperson Dr. Stephen Daniels noted that while anger expression likely plays an important role in weight gain for some teens, poor anger management is likely not to blame for this country’s overwhelmingly high rate of obesity. Parents should consider addressing certain psychological issues like anger expression for their overweight teens, Daniels said, but these findings should not encourage officials to launch an “all-out assault on anger management as the way to sort out the obesity epidemic,” he said. (Source: Reuters Health, March 2004)