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Anger 'endemic in British society'

"Problem anger" is ignored in the UK yet is endemic in society, according to a report published today.

Despite widespread concern about family breakdown and mental health problems, not enough is being done to intervene at an early stage, it said.

The study was produced by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), which defines problem anger as that which is "held on" to for too long or which produces inappropriate aggression.

An accompanying survey of 1,974 people found 64 per cent believe people are getting angrier in general.

About a third (32 per cent) said they had a close friend or family member who has trouble controlling their anger while 28 per cent worried about how angry they sometimes felt.

The Boiling Point report said prolonged and intense anger is linked to illnesses like heart disease and cancer, and can cause depression, self-harm and substance misuse.

"People describe anger as more likely to have a negative effect on interpersonal relationships than any other emotion," it added.

The study called for more research into the effectiveness of different treatments, as well as increased training for health workers to help them spot problems.

It also called for more work on ensuring anger is seen as a valid reason to refer people for care.

"Anger is still too often dealt with as a sub-set of anxiety disorders, meaning that people who do not fit the diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders won't find their way to the help they need," the study said.

"Evidence outlined in this report shows that the sorts of interventions we need to help people with problem anger already exist.

"Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other interventions are already used widely for depression or eating disorders and evidence shows that they can also help people with problem anger.

"While more research is needed to establish the best methods and how to apply them, we already have the means to help many people.

"But problem anger is not currently a 'way in' to psychological help - either because the general population doesn't recognise it as a legitimate issue for which they can get help, or there isn't a clear route via which health and social care workers and other relevant groups can recognise problem anger and offer the help that is needed."

The authors said problem anger goes largely untackled unless someone commits a criminal act, at which point the person may be referred for anger management training.

The accompanying poll found that 20 per cent of people had ended a relationship or friendship because of the other person's anger.

Most (84 per cent) believe those with problems should be encouraged to seek help but 58 per cent would not know where to go.

Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the MHF, said: "In a society where people can get help for depression and anxiety, panic, phobia, eating disorders and a range of other psychological and emotional problems, it seems extraordinary that we are left to fend for ourselves when it comes to an emotion as powerful as anger.

"We need to be able to recognise when anger is damaging our lives, ask for help and receive it.

"In the media and in mainstream life we hear a lot about road rage and many other types of rage.

"Our polling shows that the general public understands what's going on, but as a society we have yet to tackle the issue.

"It is the elephant in the room in mental health. This is not about excusing bad behaviour, but about helping individuals and communities to take responsibility.

"Tackling it won't be simple or straightforward, but the benefits could be enormous."