The Journal of Family Communication published an article concerning a study done at the University of Michigan on anger suppression and life span. This was a longitudinal study done over a 17 year period including 192 couples. Each couple was placed in one of four groups: both partners communicated their anger; one expressed while the other suppressed (and vice versa); and both suppressed their anger. The findings suggest that those who suppress their anger have a shorter life span than those who express their anger. The results of the study are as follows:
"Preliminary analysis shows that there had been 13 deaths among the group of 26 couples in which both suppressed their anger (one partner in 27 per cent and both in 23 per cent). There had been 41 deaths among the remaining 166 couples (one partner in 19 per cent and both in 6 per cent). Researchers adjusted for age, smoking, weight, blood pressure, bronchial problems, breathing, and cardiovascular risk. They are currently collecting 30-year follow-up data."
This claim is extraordinary! But, is the evidence just as extraordinary? The study included 192 couples but only 26 of them were placed in the group in which both suppressed their anger. In order for the results to be more representative of each category, each group should have had close to 48 couples (one-fourth of 192). Forty-one other deaths were recorded from the study. Although it is not listed as to which groups had a certain number of deaths, one-third of 41 is 13.67. This suggests that while the group in which each couple suppressed their anger may have had the most deaths and the highest percentage of deaths, in comparison to the other groups the data is not so impressive.
There are many factors that cause death. The suppression of anger would lead to a heightened stress level which would cause adverse health effects but cannot explain alone the cause of death. Were there any car accidents, severe illnesses, old age etc. that led to the death of anyone participating in this study? Many other possible explanations may exist for the deaths in these case studies not relating to anger suppression or expression.