Lung power normally declines as a person ages but being angry and hostile can speed up the process, researchers said on Thursday.
In a study of 670 men ranging in age from 45 to 86, they found that males who had higher levels of long-standing anger at the start of the eight-year project had significantly poorer lung function at the end of it.
"This study is one of the first to show prospectively that hostility is associated with poorer pulmonary function and more rapid rates of decline among older men," said Dr Rosalind Wright, of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, in a report online in the journal Thorax.
The scientists used a scoring system to measures the levels of anger of each of the men and they tested their lung power three times during the study.
Even after taking account of other factors such as smoking that can also have an impact on lung power, hostility and anger had a negative effect.
Anger, hostility and stress have also been associated with heart disease, asthma and other ailments.
Wright and her team suggested that the negative emotions could change biological process and may disturb the immune system and cause chronic inflammation.
"Stress-related factors are known to depress the immune function and increase susceptibility to or exacerbate a host of diseases and disorders," said Dr Paul Lehrer, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, in an editorial in the journal.
He added that it is unknown how chronic anger contributes to physical deterioration but said the researchers established a link between chronic anger and age-related deterioration in lung function.
"The next step is to determine the exact pathway by which this happens," said Lehrer.