Theoretical and methodological advances in psychology, physiology and medicine have led to rigorous examinations of the role of affect and emotion in health. In this chapter, we review the role of negative and positive emotions in health research and then discuss some of the most prominent measures currently used to measure mood in this research. We conclude with specific recommendations for the measurement of mood and emotion in the context of studies of physical health. Across different samples and studies in health psychology, there is little variation in mood assessment procedures. As a consequence, we focus our discussions primarily on the cardiovascular system, with a shorter discussion of relations between cancer and mood.
Negative emotions and health
Much of the research that examines the relation between mood and health addresses the impact of negative or unpleasant affect. Although the experience of negative affect is generally adaptive in preparing the body for fight-or-flight, it can have adverse consequences when the body is continually taxed. In particular, researchers have focused on how particular experiences of negative affect (e.g. anger, anxiety and depression) have emerged as important risk factors in health (see Gallo & Matthews, 2003; Kubzansky & Kawachi, 2000).
Several studies have reported on the negative health consequences of anger on cardiovascular responses (e.g. Kawachi et al., 1996), particularly in relation to incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD). Hostility appeared to be a greater risk factor than smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol (Chaput et al., 2002).