Is Holding Grudges Bad for Your Health?

· September 16, 2018

Who hasn’t felt mistreated at least once in their lives? And who hasn’t held grudges because of it? Maybe a friend did you wrong or criticized you behind your back. Maybe you needed someone and they just pushed you to the bottom of their priorities list. Or maybe it was your teacher who didn’t acknowledge your efforts, your parents who didn’t understand the difficulties of living in today’s world, or your partner who fell in love with someone else. We’ve all been there.

Emotions and health

It would be awesome if negative emotions came with warning signs or if schools taught children to manage them. This is a dangerous matter. There ‘s undeniable proof that poorly-managed negative emotions may constitute the greatest danger to our health.

Holding grudges affects your health.

Depression, for instance, is associated with measurable changes in the functioning of the immune system. People with major depressive disorder are at a greater risk of having a heart attack than people who don’t suffer from it. In addition, depression seems to increase the risk of osteoporosis in women. In men, depression can cause a decrease in muscular strength after the third year suffering from it.

Anxiety seems to be linked to the development of heart problems. Plus, it appears to delay recovery after surgery. Chronic hostility may be a risk factor for heart disease.

What are grudges?

A grudge is the feeling that best represents many people’s emotional states. It creates behaviors that keep the person in that same state. It tends to come with a certain degree of stubbornness that makes it resistant to the measures we take to get rid of it.


People hold on to grudges because they were treated unfairly, because someone didn’t meet their expectations, or because someone betrayed them. They feel rejection toward the person who hurt them.

The person who holds grudges is the one who hardly forgets the differences after an argument with someone. They also need a lot of time to take in what happened, forgive, and move on.

An angry couple.

How does holding grudges affect your health?

In order to analyze this topic, Witvliet et al. (2002) studied the emotional and physiological consequences of acting when motivated by grudges. They did this through an experiment. They asked college students to choose offenses they had experienced. The majority of the offenses came from friends, partners, siblings, or parents.

These offenses included circumstances such as rejection, lying, or insults. After that, researchers gathered all the reports as well as the physiological data. This data included heart rate, blood pressure, and tension in the face muscles.

Researchers collected the data as students imagined an indulgent response to these offenses or decided to hold grudges because of them. The indulgent group decided on forgiveness and empathy toward the offender. The grudging group had to play the victim, focus on the damage, and hold grudges.

The way we think affects our health

Is it possible that two ways of dealing with the same situation could alter the mood and physiological states of the students involved? The answer is yes.

When researchers asked participants to be indulgent, they experienced more empathy and mercy. However, when they asked them to hold grudges and be resentful, they reported more negative, hostile, and sad feelings.

Researchers also observed a greater tension in the brow muscles and that the heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical conductivity of the skin increased. The increase in the skin’s electrical conductivity indicated a more activated autonomic nervous system, the one that prepares us to act when we perceive a threat.

Angry friends.

Their other discovery was even more surprising. When the experiment was over, they asked participants to relax. The subjects who were resentful where incapable of doing so. The elevated physiological activation state they were in was very hard to let go of. They felt anxious for quite some time.

Holding grudges is dangerous

What are the implications of the results of this study? Experiencing hostility at times won’t damage our health. However, people who tend to not let go of offenses can hurt themselves in the long run. Feeding your anger and its physiological reactions has negative consequences on your cardiovascular and immune systems.

That’s why holding on to grudges may be dangerous to your health. Even if it’s not always easy, forgiving those who harm us may reduce stress and increase well-being. We could compare the effects of holding a grudge to those of carrying a bag full of bricks: a burden that even affects our physical health. For this reason, you must prioritize your well-being and stop holding grudges.