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How hatred hurts us. - (2/4/2020)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Patrick came into the pharmacy and began his usual rant. “I hate this weather! Why is it always raining? I hate the fact that this pharmacy doesn’t have a parking lot. What’s that medicine my doctor prescribed for me? Oh, I hate that stuff!” As the pharmacist recalls, Patrick also hates Chinese food, his neighbor’s cat, the color green, and polka music.”

Hatred comes in all forms from a strong dislike of lima beans to a bitter contempt of specific populations. While people banter around the word “hate” as much as the word “love” (I love anchovies! I love that tie!), the term is an extreme expression. No one is going to start a march against certain vegetables. However, one can take a loaded gun into a so-called “safe place” – a disco, a synagogue, a movie theatre – and commit a hate crime, murdering blacks, gays, Jews, Muslims, or whatever group they loathe. And for what reason? Doesn’t it say more about the hater than the hated? 

Consider the physical injury to a hater. One manifestation of hatred is anger. Anger can kill the hater. For example, a 2000 study published in Circulation observed that among 12,986 middle-aged men and women, those who expressed the most anger rated were more likely to experience coronary artery disease (CAD) or heart attack. In effect, the angriest study subjects faced approximately twice the risk of CAD and three times the risk of heart attack compared to subjects with the lowest levels of anger.

Hatred is psychologically injurious as well. A 2018 Canadian study showed that those harboring anger and hatred have a higher incidence of depression and anxiety. A 2012 study of survivors of the war in northern Kosovo demonstrated how unreleased anger and hatred caused the survivors to experience more physical pain and precipitated a higher incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Is hatred contagious? As researchers have recognized the adverse health effects of hatred, awareness has grown that hateful behaviors and their harmful effects can spread. For example, a 2017 article titled "Hatred – A Public Health Issue," argued that "hatred can be conceptualized as an infectious disease, leading to the spread of violence, fear, and ignorance. Hatred is contagious; it can cross barriers and borders." With the advent of the internet, people who nurture personal hatreds – black separatists, gay bashers, Islamophobes, Neo-Nazis, white nationalists – can connect and assemble in ways never before available in human history. Hence, the very architecture of the internet makes it a powerful means for the propagation of hatred. It provides anonymity to users, especially in chat rooms – comparable to the hoods the Ku Klux Klan wears. The internet has harnessed the amount and extent of hatred available to groups wanting to spread their message within seconds with a virulence that infects everyone in its path. 

Anger and hatred are normal. Yet, they are among the most toxic emotions we have. Revulsion and rage build up in the mind, body, and soul. They affect the body's organs and natural processes and give birth to emotions that are even more negative. Moderate anger may not be the problem. In fact, expressing one's passion in reasonable ways can be healthy. Calmly explaining to someone that you are angry with him or her can be an unburdening act. It can be mood-elevating. By bottling it up, the anger one feels can transform itself into an all-consuming abhorrence that has the potential to become violently unleashed. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.com.


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