6 Reasons Assholes Are Healthier (According to Science)
We tend to think of calm, peaceful Zen master types as the healthiest and happiest people in the species. After all, that twice-divorced, douchebag stock broker getting red in the face as he screams insults into the phone will surely be dead of a heart attack before he's 50, right?
That may be wishful thinking. It turns out there's a reason humans still cling to the behaviors that get us tagged as assholes. They might just make us healthier.
Cursing Increases Pain Tolerance
Most linguists agree that the reason we have such a thing as cursing in human language is because it's fucking awesome. But why do we do it when we're in pain?
Like maybe you were making yourself a cup of coffee in the break room or kitchen and turned around to find that someone left a cabinet door open and that door is now smacking you right in the goddamn face. Hurt like hell, didn't it? But it seemed to hurt a little less when you screamed "OH FUCK A SHITTING WHORE."
That's because cursing can increase pain tolerance. It's science. Dr. Richard Stephens of Keele University's School of Psychology got 64 undergraduate students to stick their hands in ice water. In one round they were to choose a curse word of their choosing (though we have to wonder how they decided what was a curse word since for some, "dickfeathers" qualifies). The next round they put their hand in while repeating a commonplace word.
Ahhhh Kelly Clarkson!!
Cursing increased pain tolerance amongst participants, who lasted longer than when they said a common word. While psychologists haven't established why, they believe "downplaying feebleness in favor of a more pain-tolerant machismo" unlocks something in the brain, perhaps the same thing that long ago helped us survive fights with other cavemen by getting good and pissed off the first time they hit us with a rock. They also noted cursing starts from the more emotional right brain than the uppity school boy left brain, where most language occurs and the parties are all boring and shit.
So the next time you bang your shin on an open desk drawer at work and involuntarily scream "FUCK!" at the top of your lungs, explain to your boss that you were just dealing with your pain in the most readily available way possible and that none of this would be happening if they didn't demand that you stop popping vicodin at work. Then show them this article to back up your point.
Gossips Live Longer
We all know being fat can take years off your life, but did you know talking about how fat Becky in accounting has gotten since breaking up with Steve from sales can boost your health! OMFG, seriously you guys!
A University of Michigan study found that gossip has positive health benefits for women. In the study, college women were put together in two groups. One group was assigned to proofread a botany paper. The other group was encouraged to ask personal questions of each other meant to help them bond.
What researchers found was that the women in the group that was encouraged to talk and gossip had elevated levels of the hormone progesterone, which is known as a "feel good" hormone in women that reduces stress. According to Stephanie Brown, lead psychologist on the study (who, by the way, was totally making eyes at Dr. Bennington at last month's faculty mixer), progesterone from human interaction is one of the reasons women with active social lives live longer than women who are isolated.
Ha! That chick in the pink shirt is totally gonna die!
Gossip, while often cruel, helps us bond in our surroundings. As we have pointed out before, gossip became a part of our culture because it served (and still serves) as an information stream that allows us to keep up with what's going on in our complex social groupings--something other species can't do. It's like an RSS feed that keeps you constantly updated on the deviant shit your social circle is up to.
Oh, and remember those women who had to read the botany paper? Their progesterone levels dropped during the test period, diminishing the feel good emotions the other women had. Plus, we heard they're total sluts.
So next time you feel stressed at the office, don't drop some xanax. Take a few minutes away from your desk and stop by the water cooler to tell Becky from accounting that her ex Steve from sales is seeing Consuela from the mail room, but that's OK because Consuela caught the clap from Jeff in IT after they got it on in the copy room at the Christmas party, so really Steve is getting what he deserves for the whole Margaret thing in November.
Complainers Live Longer
We all hate people who complain. People who spend all their time whining and being negative or critical tend to get on our last nerve and usually cause us to have to complain to other people about the complainer which makes us complain even more because now they've turned us into some kind of hypocrite and we don't like feeling that way and we've been feeling bloated all week because we've been drinking way too much Diet Pepsi lately and what is it with this weather anyway is it going to rain forever?
In other words, constant complainers suck because their disease is contagious. And that's disastrous, because how can anything be accomplished without the power of positive thinking?
While we may like to think that negativity evoked by their complaining will eventually kill them and hopefully not us, not all complaining elicits bad reactions. In the right context complaining can actually boost the complainer's health and immunity as well as the health of those who share the same complaints.
Our forefathers were super-complainers
Dr. John Brantner, a professor of health care psychology, found that cancer patients who complained about their aches and pains lived longer than those who took their pain passively and stoically. They were more more likely to demand more of the hospital staff to deal with the pain and take control of the situation. So suck it, Abigail Breslin's sister in that shitty Cameron Diaz movie!
In your FACE, punk!
But what about all of the non-cancer stricken people who can't go a few minutes without complaining about the state of the world and its decay? What do PETA members who throw blood on people who wear leather and Teabaggers stomping around with "Jesus Hates Health Care" signs get out of it?
Well, research has shown that they're boosting their own mental health and immune systems, for one. It's all about the power of complaining in groups. Humans are social animals and even bitching about things we can't control gives us a boost if we do it in groups.
Anger/Wrath Can be Good For Your Blood Pressure
Everyone deals with angry assholes in their life, whether it's a boss with rage issues, an angry spouse or an angry Internet commenter whipped into a caps locked fury because some Internet writer accidentally transposed some numbers when discussing the episode of Boy Meets World where Topanga and Cory finally bone (it's episode 67, by the way).
This man had a lot of restraint
When confronted with a rage-a-holic our most common response is to tell them to chill out. We may even joke about how their blood pressure will get out of control, or that they'll have a heart attack if they don't calm down. But science says we may be wrong about that. In fact, in the right situations, rage could actually help your blood pressure and general well-being.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that while anger may not be better than sitting in perfectly calm silence, in stressful situations, it was a much better alternative than our other tendency in those circumstances: fear.
As we hinted at with the cursing thing above, anger is most often a result of triggering the primal "fight or flight" response, which we developed for survival situations but that we tap into basically whenever we're confronted, frustrated or pissed off.
"A parsec is a gauge of length, not speed! I'll kill you!"
So when we get into some screaming match with the jerkoff in the next cubicle, some of us rage, others back down and fret about it for the rest of the day. Studies show choosing anger provided more positive effects on both blood pressure and mental health than responding in fear, which was shown to only be effective at increasing pants shitting and ass beatings.
To test how people react and their stress levels, researchers used the most emotionally reactive subject known to man: math. Participants were told to count backwards by seven from 9,095 and to count backwards by 13 from 6,233, an experiment that kind of pisses us off just hearing about it.
To make it even harder, the experimenter pointed out the participants mistakes and harassed them to make them go faster. Those who responded to the experimenter with angry facial reactions had lower stress than those who responded fearfully. Those who rose from their seats and beat the experimenter into unconsciousness were most likely met with raucous applause and a steady flow of gratitude sex, although no data is available to support that assumption.
Another study found that people who responded to the September 11th attacks with anger were more optimistic months down the road than people who responded with fear. Anger gives feelings of certainty and control and optimistic perceptions of risk instead of causing you to retreat to your remote cabin with a 10 year supply of window plastic and duct tape.
So even if you think Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" is a stupid song (which it totally is) it was apparently a healthier reaction than freaking out and hiding in the basement.
Men Who Marry Much Younger Women--or Multiple Women--Live Longer
At Cracked we've already mentioned how getting married makes you live longer. You may imagine that people most similarly matched would get the most benefit. Happy couples with the same interests, expectations and around the same age would do better than people who basically live on different planets. Certainly they'd do better than those creepy old men who divorce their loyal wives and marry teenage supermodels, right?
According to research, men who marry much younger women live longer than men who marry a woman the same age, and a man who marries an older woman might as well drop dead at the altar. Men marrying a woman 15-17 years his junior have their chances of dying a premature death cut by one fifth, and if their spouse is seven to nine years younger they still have 11 percent less chance of death. The same doesn't hold true for men who marry an older woman. Unsurprisingly, they actually have a higher likelihood of dying early.
So how does marrying young help a man live longer? Scientists don't have an explanation, but suggest the correlation might run the other way--only the healthiest, most successful men will attract younger mates.
Oh, and while they're at it, they might want to pick up more than one. In cultures where polygamy is still allowed, guys who marry multiple women live 12 percent longer than monogamous men, even when you factor out those other factors (like socioeconomic status, etc). Again they're not sure why. It may have to do with the fact that they tend to father children until a later age, which keeps them active. Or, you know, it could also have something to do with the eight or 10 extra titties they have bobbing around the house.
Type A Personalities Survive Heart Attacks Better, No More Likely to Get Them
Type A personalities, often referred to as "douchebags," are those hard driving, aggressive people who annoy the hell out of just about everyone in their vicinity. While many of us drag ourselves to work from 9-5 to support our life off the clock, type A's are the people who fling themselves out of bed every morning at 5:00 am, ready to pound another day into submission. And god help anyone who gets in their way.
They're also those people who hold up every line because they think they're the exception to every rule.
When confronted by this kind of dickish behavior we are comforted by the knowledge that one day that person will die of a stress induced heart attack and if they don't die, well, that's nothing their pacemaker and your microwave can't fix.
"Stress has only made me more powerful!"
It's not true, though. The sad fact is, Type A personalities are actually no more likely to get heart attacks than the rest of us. A University of Michigan study actually found no link between personality and heart disease. In the group they studied, genetics, not personality, determined how likely someone was to have heart problems.
There is a high risk of an ass beating though.
In fact, not only will a Type A's obnoxious personality not kill him, it might save him if he does have a heart attack. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Type A personalities were 60 percent more likely to survive after a heart attack than laid back people. They're also 80 percent more likely to stand over you while you're having a heart attack and gloat about how maybe if you showed a little more hustle then maybe you wouldn't be getting your ass handed to you by a little artery build up. Probably.
Read more from Philip at www.philiprodneymoon.com
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And to find out why stupid jerks are stupid jerks, check out 5 Douchebag Behaviors Explained by Science. And then check out those scientific explanations in action, in The 6 Biggest Dick Moves in the History of Science.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 3.22.2010) where Seanbaby will teach you the secret art of being a professional asshole.