Be Careful How You Argue With Your Partner: Your Heart, or Back, Could Be Affected

Which would you rather have, a bad heart or a bad back?

Marital spats can cause either, or both.  Partners who get it all out are at risk of high blood pressure and chest pains while those who go silent and inside themselves can anticipate back problems.

Those who rage with frustration during a marital spat have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as chest pain or high blood pressure later in life, according to new research from Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley, reports.

Conversely, shutting down emotionally or “stonewalling” during conflict raises the risk of musculoskeletal ailments such as a bad back or stiff muscles, according to the study, published online in the journal Emotion.

It’s well known that negative emotions may harm physical health, but it turns out that not all negative emotions have equal consequences. Using 20 years of data, and controlling for such factors as age, education, exercise, smoking, alcohol use and caffeine consumption, the researchers were able to connect specific emotions to corresponding health problems.

“Conflict happens in every marriage, but people deal with it in different ways," says study lead author Claudia Haase, an assistant professor of human development and social policy in Northwestern's School of Education and Social Policy. "Some of us explode with anger while some of us shut down. Our study shows that these different emotional behaviors can predict the development of different health problems in the long run.”

I tend to lash out when I'm angry, but I'm also someone who can withdraw.  My husband, on the other hand, sulks when he's mad and tends to stop talking to me, which I find more infuriating than whatever the argument was about.

Over the years we've been able to talk it out more, and try to see the other's point.  But we still have our fights where we don't talk for days.

Overall, the link between emotions and health outcomes was most pronounced for husbands, but some of the key correlations also were found in wives. The researchers analyzed married couples in the throes of tense conversations for just 15 minutes, but that was long enough to predict the development of health problems over 20 years later.

So, partners, pay attention.  


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