Frequent Arguments can Shorten Your Life
By Karen Kaplan
LOS ANGELES TIMES
Unreasonable spouse? Demanding kids? Argumentative friends? If it sometimes feels like these stressors are killing you, new research suggests you might be right.
Middle-aged adults who frequently fought with their husband or wife were more than twice as likely to die at a relatively young age compared with people who rarely fought, according to a study published online recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Frequent fights with friends were even more hazardous — people who fell into this category were 2.6 times more likely to die prematurely than people who got along with their pals.
Worst of all were persistent fights with neighbors, the researchers found. These types of argumentative people were more than three times more likely to die prematurely than the go-with-the-flow types.
Even when fights didn’t break out into the open, simply worrying about friends or loved ones or stewing over their demands could be enough to shorten one’s life. People who “always” or “often” fretted about their spouse were almost twice as likely to die during the course of the study compared with those who seldom fretted. In addition, those who expended lots of negative mental energy on their children were 55 percent more likely to die prematurely compared with those who didn’t worry about their kids very often.
All of these associations between stressful social relations and the risk of early death were stronger for men than for women, the researchers found. They also were stronger for people who were not working outside the home.
The study was based on data from nearly 10,000 Danish adults who were between the ages of 36 and 52 in 2000. All of them answered questions about their conflicts with and worries about their partners, children, other family, friends and neighbors. About 6 percent of them said they had frequent conflicts with their spouse; 6 percent had frequent conflicts with their children; 2 percent had frequent conflicts with other family members; and 1 percent had frequent conflicts with friends. Worries and demands that didn’t escalate to outright conflict were slightly more common.
In addition, the researchers used government health files to see how many of the study participants had died through the end of 2011. Over the 11 years of the study, 4 percent of the women and 6 percent of the men died (most often of cancer, but also due to cardiovascular disease, alcohol abuse and accidents, among other causes).
Those deaths were not evenly spread among people who experienced lots of conflict and people who didn’t. The more conflict in a person’s life, the more likely he or she had died, the researchers found. This probably wasn’t a coincidence.
- “Personality has been shown to influence social relationships and mortality,” they wrote. People with disagreeable personalities are likely to have more stress in their lives, and stress prompts the body to make molecules like cortisol and pro-inflammatory cytokines that can make people sick.
If public-health policymakers are looking for new ways to reduce premature deaths in their communities, the researchers had a suggestion: Offer classes on conflict management.
The conclusions as presented by this study are almost amazing. But then, I’m somewhat unusual in my thinking I suppose; I’m usually probing for why – what caused this? Who or what is driving that bus? We get to the end and read that ‘personality’ can influence all this, the relationship factors and so on. Ya think? The human condition is extremely complex for one thing, and the acceleration at which the planet pulses along in this century is a whole lot different than the last one and I daresay — the one before that. So it has to be more than parental omission in teaching us how to smile right, let the other guy have a say, to be respectful and to not be rude because nobody likes it.
For all that we feel we are entitled to. . .our rights and freedoms and privileges and equal treatment under the law, we don’t actually control that much. We truly ONLY have control over ourselves. And as it would appear, we aren’t doing a great job of that. Family used to be the nucleus of human communities — the kin and clan. By and large, for various reasons, that has disintegrated now. We still crave being linked to one another, but do it by means of electronic toys [phones, emails and so on], so that we can all preserve our unique individuality and privacy. Still, we all try. The emptiness within tells us something is amiss.
I believe man has an innate need to seek something bigger, greater than himself. Could be a cause of some kind, the attraction to the arts, philosophy or academia, God by whatever name or particular understanding. Humans indeed are complex. Our contemporary civilization has pulled away from so-called ‘religion’. But the ill-defined urges remain, often, unchanneled. So there is all of that. I know since I’ve lived fully in both centuries, I can state. . .been there done all of that. Both parents and churches used to do the teaching and training of the niceties which in the end, enriched our lives thru helping to build in us the self-discipline, while simultaneously fanning the flame of creativity and wonder — all woven together, allowing us to emerge as kinder, relevant people. Stuff changes.
So when we throw in political corruption, broken promises, a shameless, dysfunctional Congress, a biased, corrupt Supreme Court and runaway disenfranchisement of a once prosperous middle class into the worst economic inequality ever known, Americans have a lot to be upset about, if not totally fed up. The whole ball of wax goes to creating a lot of stuffed feelings and short fuses. Our prides are wounded, our dreams shaken or crumbling and it’s easy to fall victim to our own limited supply of charity . . . for the other guy; we’ve used it up on ourselves. So yeah, this is expressed through our personality. . . .but who we are is a hell of a lot more than what is being seen.
Anger management is worthwhile, might help. With Bible reading and prayer. . .private time for contemplation, one could come by much needed humility and sense of place in the scheme of things. And I bet few of us are doing that! One thing I have found to be a comfort is my receiving of a daily message from Abraham, received by email from Abraham-Hicks, the Law of Attraction people. It is beautiful, uplifting, non-denominational, always gives me something to think about and I never tire of receiving these . . .I guess one could say – “it works for me,” Jan)