Two studies of the Effort–Reward Imbalance (ERI) model of work stress with different end points were undertaken in community samples from the Adelaide (Australia) metropolitan area. Study 1 examined the relationship between ERI at work and state anger. Study 2 extended the first and examined the relationship between ERI, anger and cardiovascular disease (CVD) symptoms. Hierarchical multiple regression confirmed a significant relationship between ERI and state anger in Study 1 even after controlling for extraneous variables. Study 2 showed that ERI increases CVD symptoms via the mediating variable of anger (an indirect effect). Furthermore, Study 2 revealed that people of lower income were more likely to experience higher anger. The results of both studies have far ranging consequences for the emotional and physical health of individuals who are experiencing an imbalance between their efforts and perceived rewards at work and those with lower incomes may be more vulnerable. The wider public health implications of the relationship between work stress, and emotional and physical well being in the community are discussed. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.