Hostility, Neuroendocrine Changes,
and Health Outcomes
REDFORD B. WILLIAMS
Research conducted over the past several decades has demonstrated a moderately strong association between chronic negative emotional states, such as hostility and anger, and negative health outcomes. The interdisciplinary field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) provides a good environment for studying the effects of hostility on health because of the complex sequelae of events in the central nervous system, endocrine system, immune system, blood, and heart, all of which are set in motion as a consequence of chronic negative emotions. The emphasis of many religious and spiritual traditions on mastering or controlling anger and other negative emotions may offer opportunities not only for studying the hostility phenomenon but also for understanding ways that the health-damaging effects of hostility may be thwarted.
Research on the health consequences of hostility and anger essentially began with Friedman and Rosenman's pioneering work to identify persons at high risk of developing coronary disease. Friedman and Rosenman (1974) identified a “type A” behavior pattern, which they characterized as a competitive, impatient, hurrying behavioral and emotional style. Furthermore, hostility was considered a key component of the type A behavior pattern.
Beginning in the early 1980s, Williams, Haney, and colleagues (1980) demonstrated that scores on a 50-item hostility scale (Ho) correlated pos