Too Much Grinning Can be Grim

May 23, 2008 ( - A German psychologist has warned "professional smilers" such as flight attendants and shop assistants that too much forced smiling can cause stress, depression and even heart problems.

The stress caused by having to constantly “grin and bear it” can lead to depression, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, Professor Dieter Zapf of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt told Apotheken Umschau, a healthcare magazine handed out free at pharmacies in Germany.

Zapf studied 4,000 volunteers working in a fake call center. Half were allowed to respond in kind to abuse on the other end of the line while the other half had to – well, “take it.” Zapf said that those allowed to answer back had a brief increase in heart rate. Those who could not had stress symptoms that lasted much longer. As a consequence, the researchers decided “being friendly against one’s will causes nothing but stress”. Zapf said: “We are all able to rein in our emotions, but it becomes difficult to do this over a protracted period as cabin attendants are forced to on long-haul flights.

“Every time a person is forced to repress his true feelings there are negative consequences,” Zapf said. “We are all able to rein in our emotions but it becomes difficult to do this over a protracted period.”

Zapf recommends that “professional smilers” take regular breaks to relax, rid themselves of aggression and – “recuperate” from the effort of smiling.