When anger expression might be beneficial for African Americans: The moderating role of chronic discrimination

Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol. 2018 Jul;24(3):303-318. doi: 10.1037/cdp0000185. Epub 2018 May 24.


Objectives: Anger expression is assumed to have mostly negative health effects. Yet, evidence is mixed on how anger expression influences African Americans' cardiovascular health. The present research aimed to clarify this link by examining moderating effects of chronic discrimination on the relationship between anger expression and cardiovascular risk among African Americans in experimental (Study 1) and epidemiological (Study 2) studies.

Method: Study 1 examined how African Americans' trait anger expression was linked to (a) physiologic reactivity to acute social rejection during an interracial encounter (Session 1); and (b) total/HDL cholesterol assessed two months later (Session 2). Study 2 examined the relationship between anger expression and total/HDL cholesterol with a larger sample of African Americans from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) survey. Both studies examined perceptions of chronic discrimination as a moderator of the relationships between anger expression and biological responses.

Results: In Study 1 higher anger expression was associated with quicker cortisol recovery and greater testosterone reactivity following outgroup social rejection in Session 1 and lower total/HDL cholesterol in Session 2. Study 2 replicated the relationship between anger expression and lower total/HDL cholesterol and further showed that this relationship was unique to the expressive aspect of anger. Importantly, in both studies, these potentially beneficial effects of anger expression were only evident among individuals with lower perceptions of chronic discrimination.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that anger expression, when coupled with low levels of chronic discrimination, is associated with adaptive patterns of physiologic responses among African Americans. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anger*
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • United States