Frequent arguments with family or friends may double a person’s risk of death by middle age, a new study by researchers in Denmark suggests.
The researchers surveyed nearly 10,000 Danish men and women aged 36 to 52 about the quality of their social relationships. Their questions focused on specific relationships with partners, family members, and friends, and the degree and reason behind their conflicts with them. The researchers then tracked the health of the participants from 2000 to 2011.
The findings were published Thursday in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Ten percent of the participants identified their partner or children as demanding and their greatest source for worry. Six percent of participants said they argued most frequently with their partner or children compared with 2 percent who argued with other relatives and 1 percent who argued with friends or neighbors.
Four hundred of the participants died during the study period. Cancer was the cause for nearly half of the deaths, followed by heart disease, liver disease, accidents and suicide.
Those who reported having frequent worries or demands from their partner or children were at 50 to 100 percent increased risk of death, according to the study. Participants who said they argued frequently with anyone—whether it was a family member or neighbor—doubled their risk of death compared to those who said they rarely argued.
Those who were unemployed were also found to be at increased risk of death. Men were more likely than women to report having worries or feel the pressure of demands, the study also found.
It may be that those who argued less—regardless of their gender—had a more easygoing personality, which could contribute to less stress and better health, the authors said. However, it’s hard to tell because the researchers relied on the participants reporting how they feel, which may not be completely accurate. The study only looked at participants in one country—ironically ranked by the UN as the world’s happiest country—so the findings may not apply to other groups.
The findings suggest that having a strong network and social relationships are key to living longer and healthier, the authors wrote.