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Being a Sexist, Racist Asshole Is Bad for Your Health

The meek shall inherent mental and physical wellbeing.

Fighting Words is a column in which writers rub you the wrong way with their unpopular but well-argued opinions on fitness, health, nutrition, what have you. Got something to get off your chest? Send your pitch to Bigotry built America. Early settlers removed the native people, enslaved millions more, and instituted 144 years of "no girls allowed" voting policies. Face it, intolerance has been a constant throughout the construction and maintenance of this increasingly divided house. Still, it's been more than a little shocking to see a surge of swastika-branded, hijab-targeting, "Lock her up!" rage bubble up as Donald Trump has grabbed the US by the Presidency. It's as if half the electorate (actually, 2.7 million voters short of half) decided that life was actually not so bad during the Klan days.


It's not that all Trump supporters are prejudiced. But certainly he has a larger-than-average share of sexist, racist, and otherwise hotheaded followers, picking fights at rallies and calling for a return to a time they seem to think was better. (It wasn't.) But even as you revile those people, pity them, too. For they will probably die before you do.

Let's start where Trump, and many of his supporters, fear to tread: science.

A new study from researchers at Indiana University shows that sexist men are more likely to have psychological issues. Researchers evaluated more than 19,000 men, looking at 11 masculine norms like risk-taking, violence, emotional control, and the pursuit of status. Two of the norms most closely associated with depression, anxiety, and other negative mental-health states were also the two most directly related to sexism: power over women, and feeling like a playboy (these are the actual terms the study used).

The self-destructive effects may have something to do with the way the assholes themselves take heat from society. "Individuals who conform to these [sexist] norms might be getting pushback," says lead author Y. Joel Wong, associate professor of counseling psychology at IU. That could be creating stress and anxiety.

If that's the case, one might assume that racists are also suffering. And indeed, they are: Racists die younger than the general population. A 2015 study from the American Journal of Public Health looked at mortality data of nearly 11,000 white and black people that spanned 15 years. It found that people holding anti-black prejudices were 11 percent more likely to die of any cause during the study period. Sadly, the effect on the communities was even worse: In neighborhoods with the most racial tension, the risk of mortality for everybody—black, white, racists, and non-racist—was 24 percent higher, even after controlling for other social factors. Part of the mortality spike may stem from anger, another emotion assholes know well. We've seen bitter fights break out at Trump rallies, furious outbursts in public spaces. And rage is not only bad for your psyche, but it wears on your body as well. Anger causes blood pressure to spike, heart rate to rise, and sometimes, blood vessels to constrict, choking off the supply of oxygen to the ticker and increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. According to a 2014 study, the risk of ischemic stroke spikes 362 percent following an anger outburst. Ironically, it's the sexist, racist, and infuriated among us who probably need healthcare the most, but Trump's administration seems bent on making it harder to obtain. The message here? Stay calm. Be a good person. It's important to practice compassion, even with a president-elect who spent the entire election season trying to make bigots feel like they were the victims. "(Trump) is a bad role model," says Wong. "That's a problem." Yes, it is.

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