Frequent Arguments Might Be the Death of You
Social stress seems to increase the risk for an early demise
About one in 10 said that their children were a frequent source of excess demands and worries. Nine percent said that their spouse was often a source of demands or concern. Six percent cited problems among their relatives and 2 percent had issues with friends.
Some 6 percent of participants said they "always or often" had conflicts with their spouse or children, 2 percent had such conflicts with other relatives, and 1 percent with friends or neighbors.
Taking all of this into account, Lund's team calculated that these stresses were linked to a 50 percent to 100 percent increased risk of death from any cause. Among all these stresses, arguing was the most harmful, the researchers found.
Frequent arguments with partners, relatives, friends or neighbors were associated with a doubling to tripling in the risk of death from any cause, compared with those who said these incidents were rare, the authors noted.
Rego said it's important to note the limitations of an observational study, such as this one. "As with all studies that employ observational designs, caution should be used when interpreting the results, as the design does not provide conclusive information about any cause-and-effect relationships," he said.
Still, the researchers suspect that greater stress from conflicts and concerns might be the reason behind the increased risk. They noted that when stressors were increased -- for example, conflict at home coupled with unemployment -- the risk of premature death also rose.
Lund also cited higher levels of stress hormones and increased blood pressure as possible reasons for the connection.
Rego said the interactions between stressful social situations and the body's stress response as well as other factors -- such as genetics, environment, socioeconomic factors and psychological responses -- likely all play a role in the association between conflicts and a higher risk of death.
Lund suggested that learning to deal with conflict and stress might be helpful. "Skills in handling worries and demands from close social relations as well as conflict management within couples and families, and also in local communities, may be considered important strategies for reducing premature deaths," Lund said.
Rego agreed. "Given these findings, it seems reasonable to conclude that designing and implementing psychological interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which focus on teaching specific skills like how to manage worries and demands from close social relations, as well as conflict management within couples, families, and even in local communities, all may be important strategies for reducing premature deaths," he said.