In the past few days, I have noticed a deluge of angry posts on an over-50 website I won't name here (I belong to more than one). The same screen names keep appearing, connected to repeated rants about government conspiracies, inept public officials and unjust laws, personal slights, and even attacks on people who don't share the writer's religious or non-religious beliefs. I can't find any positive, problem-solving suggestions in those posts.
Let me make clear that I believe in free speech, realize that everything is not rosy in the world, and believe that expressing anger can be therapeutic. But how much is too much? The net effect of these rants has been to turn me away from that website, or at least from certain forums (and it's strange how the same rants by the same people appear repeatedly regardless of a forum's stated topic). I'm not condemning over-50 websites; in fact, I'm a great supporter of and contributor to them , but that negativity helps explain the unattractive image of miserable, complaining "old folks" that seems to be fairly common. I'm old myself, but I'd certainly try to avoid those "angry old men and women."
Today, I read a New York Times News Service article by Nichola Bakalar in the Chicago Tribune entitled, "Hostility may raise the risk of illnesses." The article begins, "Researchers studying 313 healthy Vietnam veterans have found that anger and hostility may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure." This increased my concern for the over-50 writers of all those bitter diatribes. Life is too short to concentrate on the bad and ignore the good.
The researchers measured levels of C3 protein in the blood of the study's subjects. C3 is a marker for "the inflammation that is a risk factor for cardiovascular illnesses." They discovered that those with the most hostility, anger, and depression showed a steady, significant increase in C3 levels, and this may put them at greaater risk for hypertension, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.
Although they can't explain the cause of this phenomenon, the researchers suggest efforts to control hostility. At the very least, being less angry and hostile would seem to enhance the lives of those constant on-line ranters. I wish them well.
Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne