Clearly having frequent conflict with family, friends and neighbors is not healthy, but a new study found that those who experience argumentative relationships actually double their risk of an early death.
Danish researchers at the University of Cogenhagen set out to determine the effect of conflict and arguments within relationships with kids, partners, friends and neighbors. They were particularly interested in the effect the stress had on their risk for early death. 10,000 men and women between the ages of 36 and 52 from the Danish Longitudinal Study on Work, Unemployment and Health were quizzed on their social relationships. They tracked the data from the Danish Cause of Death Registry from 200 to 2011. Researchers also weighed the stress of not having a job, as well as conflict and demands from kids, neighbors, friends and relatives.
They found that four percent of women and six percent of men died within the time-frame of the study, half of which were due to cancer and the other half were due to heart problems, stroke, liver disease, accidents and suicide. One in 10 of the participants studied had extra worries or burdens from their mate or kids, which is likely because of the nature of the relationships and frequency of arguments. Also one in 20 of them had conflict with friends or relatives. While conflict with relatives and neighbors was ranked significantly less, it can contribute to early death as well.
After considering gender, marital status, signs of depression, level of support and job title, they determined that those who experienced frequent conflict were 50 to 100 percent more likely to die prematurely from any of the causes of death. One theory is that people who are overstressed are more likely to smoke or abuse alcohol, putting them at greater risk for developing deadly diseases. High levels of stress can also lead to high blood pressure, which also puts their health at risk.
Frequent arguing was found to be the most destructive on overall health and longevity. In fact, it caused two times higher risk of early death. Men and the unemployed were at particularly high risk for early death due to argumentative relationships, however. Not having a job intensified the conflict and increased stress in relationships. Alternately, having a support system, including a strong social network and positive relationships are good for overall health and longevity.
While every relationship is prone to a fight now and then, it is the constant arguing that causes added stress and poses a health risk. Chronic stress is what causes people to die at an early age. Likewise, worrying about people, particularly a spouse or child, is normal, it is a problem when it becomes a chronic, obsessive worry.
The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. Researchers note that personality may affect how people respond to stress. The study’s lead author, Rikke Lund, suggests conflict management to “curb premature deaths associated with social relationship stressors.” The idea is to avoid the negative impact of argumentative relationships, which can double the risk of early death.
By Tracy Rose