If you and your spouse fight a lot, it could cause some serious health problems. A preliminary study from the Universities of Nevada and Michigan found that persistent marital conflict can be as bad as smoking and drinking.
Researchers examined 373 heterosexual couples over the course of 16 years. Participants revealed whether they disagreed on things such as money, children, and in-laws. The study’s volunteers also reported health issues, including headaches, anxiety, and having trouble sleeping. The more a couple argued, the more likely they were to have health issues.
A man’s health was more adversely affected the more he fought with his wife. Women did not experience the same reaction. According to Rosie Shrout, a doctoral candidate at the University of Nevada who worked on the study, the reason may be because the wives had worse health going into a marriage than men.
“There’s wide-ranging research showing that negative relationships are really harmful to your health,” Shrout told the New York Post.
The study included previous research which found “people with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.”
In addition, the risk of death is comparable to “well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.”
The researchers recommend physicians and other health professionals take the influence of social relationships as seriously as other risk factors that affect mortality.
Psychotherapist Kristen Bomas told the Post that she’s had clients with marital conflicts who experienced declining health.
“We have known for a long time that stress or negative emotions affect health, illness and injury,” Bomas explained.
Bomas suggests couples work on better communication to break the cycle. Some of the things you can do include the following:
- Really listen and be attentive
- Think carefully about the words you use
- Be honest but don’t necessarily say everything that pops into your head
- Make sure you understand what your spouse is saying by repeating her words
- Imagine yourself in your spouse’s shoes
- Try to speak calmly and do not yell
- Try explaining things in a different way