National Post

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Thursday, November 11, 1999

The vex files: Study ranks society by anger levels
Divorced women in their 30s most irate
Paul Waldie
National Post

Divorced women in their 30s who are unemployed and don't go to church are among the angriest people around, according to a new study, while elderly widowers who attend church regularly are the most even-tempered.

The University of Miami study examined data from surveys on emotions involving 1,000 people in Ontario and 1,500 people across the United States. The surveys were conducted at different times -- 1981 in Ontario and 1996 in the U.S. -- but drew remarkably similar conclusions about who is angry and why.

People in the 30-to-39 age group had the highest overall anger, just ahead of those in their 20s. People 80 and over were the least angry.

While this may be due to the fact that older people are less easily provoked, generally speaking, something else may be at work -- a kind of emotional survival of the fittest.

"Anger can get people into trouble," said Scott Schieman, the Miami sociologist who conducted the study. "It obviously has negative health consequences. So, the angrier people could be dying younger."

Dr. Schieman's research, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Health & Social Behavior, also found that better-educated people are less angry. Single people, married couples and those who are widowed are less angry than people who are divorced or separated.

Not surprisingly, the study found that unemployed people are more angry than people who have a job or who are retired.

Homemakers are also less angry than the unemployed.

Dr. Schieman said senior managers and people with high-paying jobs also tend to be more angry.

"A lot of people use emotions to assert status and authority and power," he said. "Anger can cut both ways. You might think of anger as problematic, but in some cases smaller amounts of anger, that might be more controlled, could actually have a beneficial effect."

Anger also tends to increase with the number of people living in a household. People who live in packed households are more angry than those who live alone or with one other person. Stress, estrangement from relatives and family problems also lead to more anger, the study found.

The study also concluded that "greater religious involvement is significantly associated with lower anger." Older people tend to be more involved in religious activities, said Dr. Schieman.

As for the sexes, Dr. Schieman said his study was not conclusive, but two recent studies have shown "that women report significantly higher levels of anger than men."

He plans to launch a much larger study on ageing and emotions this winter in Florida.

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