(NaturalPath) A new study out of the University of California – Berkeley and published in the journal Emotion, looked at couples and linked how they behave during conflicts to physical affects later down the road. For instance, if you have outbursts of anger that has been linked to cardiovascular problems as you age. Additionally, shutting down emotionally or “stonewalling” during conflict raises the risk of musculoskeletal ailments such as a bad back or stiff muscles.
“Our findings reveal a new level of precision in how emotions are linked to health, and how our behaviors over time can predict the development of negative health outcomes,” said one researcher.
The study is based on 20 years of data and the researchers accounted for a variety of factors including age, education, exercise, smoking, alcohol use and caffeine consumption. The study included 156 middle-aged and older heterosexual couples in the San Francisco Bay Area whose relationships have been tracked since 1989. Some of the remaining surviving spouses are in their 90s.
Along with a questionnaire, every five years for two decades the couples were videotaped talking about their lives and their relationship and the researchers evaluated and identified facial expressions and then linked to health symptoms.
Another researcher noted, “We looked at marital-conflict conversations that lasted just 15 minutes and could predict the development of health problems over 20 years for husbands based on the emotional behaviors that they showed during these 15 minutes.”
Interestingly, the link between emotions and health outcomes was more pronounced for husbands than wives.
Those who were observed to fly off the handle more easily were at a greater risk of developing chest pain, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, while those who stonewalled were more likely to develop backaches, stiff necks or joints and general muscle tension.
This is important for couples to understand the health effects of how they deal with conflict in their marriage and the research gives them a way to avoid negative health outcomes.
Razi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.