Divergent Associations of Adaptive and Maladaptive Emotion Regulation Strategies With Inflammation

Managing emotions effectively is good for your health—psychological and physical.

Emotions have a powerful impact on our bodies, as well as our minds. For example, high levels of distress are associated with greater inflammatory risk and contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Emotion regulation strategies, however, such as reappraisal and suppression can be learned. Reappraisal involves altering how a person thinks about an emotion-eliciting situation in order to change its emotional impact. (For example, viewing a situation as a positive opportunity rather than an anxiety-inducing situation.) Reappraisal is believed to be health-promoting. Suppression, on the other hand, is a maladaptive strategy that involves inhibiting emotions in response to an event. Suppression harms the nervous and cardiovascular systems over time.

Key Findings:

Lower CRP was associated with more reappraisal, fewer depressive symptoms, and lower body mass index (BMI). Higher CRP was associated with more suppression; being male and a smoker; having less education, lower childhood socioeconomic status, and higher adult BMI.

Conclusion:

“This study adds to the growing evidence base that healthy psychological functioning may buffer and maintain health whereas poor psychological functioning may contribute to poor health,” the researchers write.  “It may be possible to teach individuals how to manage their emotions effectively which may not only improve psychological functioning, but may also protect physical health as well.” 

 

This study is one in a series supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio to explore Positive Health, an emerging concept that seeks to demonstrate that in addition to health risks, people also have health assets, which can be strengthened to produce a healthier life. These health assets could include biological factors, such as high heart rate variability; subjective factors, such as optimism; and functional factors, such as a stable marriage.