How Spouses Fight Could Offer Clues to Future Health Woes
According to data drawn from a study of long-term heterosexual marriages, the ways in which spouses disagree may predict which are more likely than others to develop certain ailments in later life. For example, researchers found that patterns centering on angry outbursts in the midst of arguments raised the risk of heart problems, while musculoskeletal issues such as back pain or stiff neck seemed tied to either or both partners' emotional withdrawal, or "stonewalling," during a spat.
The study did not prove a causal link between behavior and health problems, only an association between them. Still, with more and more research pointing to strong ties between our emotions and our physical well-being, the most recent data only reinforce many researchers' long-held views on the dynamic.
"When we look at health psychology as a whole and the movement to integrate psychologists into health care settings, it's because of the mounting research supporting these relationships between our emotions and personality traits and what happens with our health outcomes over time," said Vanessa Downing, a psychologist and behavioral health coordinator at the Christiana Care Center for Heart & Vascular Health in Wilmington, Delaware. The takeaway from the study, she said, quoted at CBSnews.com, is "the importance of us starting to recognize our patterns."