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Greater Health Risk Seen for Type A Personalities

Health: heart disease, heart score line
AP / CBS
AP / CBS

A new study finds that aggressive behavior often associated with Type A personalities may land them in an early grave.

Medical researchers found that these so-called antagonistic personalities tend to develop a progressive thickening of their neck arteries, a development that puts them at higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

The study focused on more than 5,600 men and women residing in four villages in Italy's Lanusei Valley were studied over a three-year period. Researchers used a 48-item agreeableness scale comprised of traits such as straightforwardness or modesty.

The paper, published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, examined the long-held observation by clinicians that people given to displays of anger and hostility toward others often develop cardiovascular trouble. What the researchers discovered was that study participants who were judged to be more antagonistic and quicker to express their anger experienced greater thickening of the neck arteries than others found to be more socially agreeable.

Antagonistic individuals tend to have a more competitive and conflictual style of social interaction that undermines interpersonal relations. Even when social support systems are in place, they do not benefit physiologically from such support. Over time, deficits in social support may culminate in greater cardiovascular risk. In addition to social isolation, their attitudes may also increase risk. Antagonistic individuals tend to hold negative beliefs about groups other than their own and are thus more prone to stereotyping.
The challenge for doctors will be to zero in on the personality traits which most contribute to arterial thickening and the help patients modify their lifestyles and find ways to better cope with daily stresses.

But that promises to be a full-time job by itself. In a statement accompanying the study, lead author Angelina Sutin noted that study participants who scored high on the antagonism meter were also found to be "distrustful, skeptical and at the extreme cynical, manipulative, self-centered, arrogant and quick to express anger."

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.