Anger arousal and behavioral anger regulation in everyday life among people with chronic low back pain: Relationships with spouse responses and negative affect

Health Psychol. 2016 Jan;35(1):29-40. doi: 10.1037/hea0000221. Epub 2015 Jun 1.


Objective: To determine the degree to which anger arousal and anger regulation (expression, inhibition) in the daily lives of people with chronic pain were related to spouse support, criticism, and hostility as perceived by patients and as reported by spouses.

Method: Married couples (N = 105, 1 spouse with chronic low back pain) completed electronic daily diaries, with assessments 5 times/day for 14 days. On these diaries, patients completed items on their own anger arousal, anger expression, and inhibition, and on perceived spouse support, criticism, and hostility. Spouses reported on their responses toward patients and their negative affect. Hierarchical linear modeling tested concurrent and lagged relationships.

Results: Patient-reported increases in anger arousal and anger expression were predominantly related to concurrent decreases in patient-perceived and spouse-reported spouse support, concurrent increases in patient-perceived and spouse-reported spouse criticism and hostility, and increases in spouse-reported negative affect. Relationships for anger expression remained significant with anger arousal controlled. These effects were especially strong for male patients. Spouses reported greater negative affect when patients were present than when they were not.

Conclusions: Social support may facilitate adjustment to chronic pain, with declining support and overt criticism and hostility possibly adversely impacting pain and function. Results suggest that patient anger arousal and expression may be related to a negative interpersonal environment for married couples coping with chronic low back pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Anger*
  • Arousal
  • Chronic Pain / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Low Back Pain / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Support
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data