When You are stressing yourself to death

Some relationships are just more stressful than others. There are people who seem to enjoy bickering, perhaps to create some sense of drama or excitement in their lives. In other cases, someone close to you may simply be too different--or too similar--for you to get along with smoothly. However, if you are prone to arguing about this, that, and the other with certain people you spend time with on a daily basis,
you might want to consider making more of an effort to end the conflict. According to new research, individuals who squabble regularly with those they spend a lot of time with may be more likely to-die-sooner.

The study, which took place at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, found that middle-aged people who have stressful relationships with their spouse, other family members, or neighbors appear to have a higher mortality risk than their counterparts who experience less conflict in these relationships. The subjects were approximately 10,000 men and women ranging in age from 36 to 52. They were all followed from 2000 through 2011, during which time they answered surveys with questions concentrating on their regular social contacts. Much of the focus was on the day-to-day nature of their closest relationships, in particular those that tended to produce conflict and resulted in stress-for-those-involved.

The most common relationships for the participants to report as combative were those with a spouse or child, with roughly 10 percent saying these immediate family members were their main source of stress. This was followed by approximately five percent who named other relatives as their most difficult relationships, and one percent complaining mainly about arguing with friends. Over the 11-year course of the study, 196 female subjects, or four percent, and 226 male subjects, or six percent, died. The number one cause of mortality was cancer, to which close to 50 percent of these deaths were attributed. Also high on the list of causes were cardiovascular disease, stroke, liver conditions, accidents, and-suicide.

When these figures were analyzed against the reports of stressful relationships, the scientists determined that those with more contentious, problematic interactions had a 50 to 100 percent higher risk of dying prematurely. The effect was slightly more pronounced in men than in women. The research was not designed to show why this might be the case, but it could be because men often have somewhat smaller social circles than women. If a man only has two or three close relationships and at least one of those is frequently stressful, it will most likely have a stronger impact than it would for a woman who may have six or seven others she is close enough to depend on.

In addition, other factors were shown to come into play that may increase the effects of a stressful relationship even further. For example, in cases where the participant was unemployed, the difficulties with a friend or relative were more significant than they were for those who remained employed. That would make sense, since the financial and emotional toll of unemployment can often wreak havoc in our personal-lives.

Interestingly, even arguing with neighbors appears to take its toll on our health. The incidence of friend or neighbor conflict only arose for about one percent of the volunteers, yet it was associated with a stunning three times greater mortality risk. While it was much more common for the issues to stem from a relationship with an immediate family member, anyone around the neighborhood may feasibly be seen on a daily basis and may raise our hackles regularly.

These findings are in line with a study earlier this year at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City that found people who have rocky marriages face a greater risk of developing heart disease. The current study just expands the territory from only marriages to all close relationships and to all potential causes of mortality. And we know that daily stress of any kind has been linked to a wide range of diseases. It may simply come down to the importance of taking care of yourself by leading a healthy lifestyle, focusing most of your energy on those people and relationships that truly make you happy, and trying to cut down on negative encounters whenever and wherever possible. You will probably end up in a better frame of mind overall when there is less conflict to deal with, and that just might help you lead a longer life as well.


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