Being too power hungry could increase heart problem risk, study

Updated: 2015-03-21
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power hungry
It's bad news for relentless power-seekers like Frank Underwood on House of Cards (pictured). But those who get to the top by being nice actually increase their health benefit, say Utah researchers
It goes without saying that being ambitious is a good way to progress your career.
But being too power hungry won't just rub your colleagues up the wrong way - it's also bad for your health.
That's because aggressively climbing the career ladder leads to a higher risk of heart problems, researchers found.
However those who get to the top by through being nice - and respected - actually increase their health benefit, the study claims.
University of Utah researchers surveyed 500 undergraduates over four studies to gauge the health effects of different personalities.
The hostile-dominant personality style was compared with the warm-dominant style.
In keeping with their group title, the hostile-dominant types reported greater hostility and interpersonal stress.
Warm-dominant types, however, tended to rank themselves as higher in social status,.
Both styles were associated with a higher personal sense of power.
The psychologists also monitored the blood pressure of 180 undergraduates as they reacted to stressful conversations with others who were scripted to act deferentially or dominantly.
Hostile-dominant types experienced significant increases in blood pressure when interacting with a dominant partner, but not with a deferential one.
Researchers noted that in previous studies, increased blood pressure due to stress puts people at risk for heart disease.
In another study with 94 young, married couples, they found that hostile-dominance in men was linked with higher blood pressure (recorded throughout the day with a wearable monitor), but not among women.
Warm-dominance in women predicted lower blood pressure, but not in men.
Among 154 older, married couples with an average age of 63, a warm-dominant style was associated with less conflict and more support.
A hostile-dominant style was associated with more severe hardening of the arteries in men and women, as measured by how calcified the arteries were. 
Hostile-dominance was also linked with greater marital conflict and lower marital support.
Study author Timothy Smith, professor of professor of psychology, said: 'It's bad news for relentless power-seekers the likes of Frank Underwood on House of Cards, climbing the ladder of social status through aggressive, competitive striving might shorten your life as a result of increased vulnerability to cardiovascular disease.
'And it's good news for successful types who are friendlier, it sems that attaining higher social status as the result of prestige and freely given respect may have protective effects.
'Hostile-dominant is not a style that wears well with other people.
'The good news is that people can take steps to change a hostile personality style. Something usually has to fall apart first before they are willing to entertain that option.
'However there is some evidence that it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks, and if you do, it can reduce coronary risk.'
The results were presented to the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.
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