Anger and Depression in Middle-Aged Men: Implications for a Clinical Diagnosis of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. Fall 2019;31(4):328-336. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.18110280. Epub 2019 Apr 25.


Objective: In recent years, it has been proposed that problems with anger control and depression define clinical features of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The authors examined anger problems and depression in middle-aged men from the general population and related those findings to the proposed clinical criteria for CTE.

Methods: A sample of 166 community-dwelling men ages 40-60 was extracted from the normative database of the National Institutes of Health Toolbox. All participants denied prior head injury or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Participants completed scales assessing anger, hostility, aggression, anxiety, and depression.

Results: In response to the item "I felt angry," 21.1% of men reported "sometimes," and 4.8% reported "often." When asked "If I am provoked enough I may hit another person," 11.4% endorsed the statement as true. There were moderate correlations between anger and anxiety (Spearman's ρ=0.61) and between depression and affective anger (ρ=0.51), hostility (ρ=0.56), and perceived hostility (ρ=0.35). Participants were dichotomized into a possible depression group (N=49) and a no-depression group (N=117) on the basis of the question "I feel depressed," specific to the past 7 days. The possible depression group reported higher anxiety (p<0.001, Cohen's d=1.51), anger (p<0.001, Cohen's d=0.96), and hostility (p<0.001, Cohen's d=0.95).

Conclusions: Some degree of anger and aggression are reported by a sizable minority of middle-aged men in the general population with no known history of TBI. Anger and hostility are correlated with depression and anxiety, indicating that all tend to co-occur. The base rates and comorbidity of affective dysregulation in men in the general population is important to consider when conceptualizing CTE phenotypes.

Keywords: Mood Disorders (Neuropsychiatric Aspects); Neuropathology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression
  • Anger / physiology*
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy / diagnosis*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires