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Stressful Social Relations May Result in Earlier Death: Study

Worries, conflicts and demands in relationships with partner, children, other relatives, friends and neighbors are linked with increased mortality risk among middle-aged men and women, a new Danish study published on the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests.

Christian Saclao, Fashion Times, May 27, 2014

"Conflicts, especially, were associated with higher mortality risk regardless of whom was the source of the conflict," wrote Rikke Lund of the University of Copenhagen and her co-authors. "Worries and demands were only associated with mortality risk if they were related to partner or children."

Lund, who is a public health researcher at the largest institution of research and education in Denmark, and her colleagues, found out that men and unemployed individuals appeared to be the most vulnerable.

The researchers noted that there are only few studies which have assessed the correlation between people's stressful social relations and mortality.

To evaluate the effects of stressful relationship on causes of death, Lund and his colleagues analyzed the data of a long-term study in Denmark titled "The Danish Longitudinal Study on Work, Unemployment and Health," including 9,870 men and women aged 36-52 years old and monitored the condition of their health from 2000 until the end of 2011.

The researchers asked their respondents who (e.g. partners, children, relatives, friends and neighbors) caused worry and conflict in their lives to measure stressful social relations. In addition, researchers also asked them questions about emotional support and symptoms of depression.

Almost one in every 10 participants said their partner or children were always or often a source of their demands and worries. Six percent said they always or often experienced conflicts with other relatives and two percent said they always or often have misunderstanding with friends.

Furthermore, results of the study show that six percent of participants had recurrent arguments with their partner or children, 2 percent with their other relatives and one percent with friends or neighbors.

Individuals who always or often experienced worries or demands from their partners had twice the risk of dying compared to those who rarely suffer from these emotional difficulties.

Participants who always or often experience worries and demands from their children, on the other hand, had about a 50 percent increase in risk of death.

Moreover, the study's subjects who always experienced conflicts with their partners or friends had more than twice the risk of dying, and if they frequently argued with their neighbors, the risk is more than tripled.

"I think it really adds to our broader understanding of the influence of relationships, not only on our overall health, but on our longevity - how long we actually live," Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology researcher at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah who is not part of the study told Reuters.

 "There are a couple of other studies that have shown that negativity in relationships actually is associated with greater risk of mortality, and this study looks specifically across different types of relationships as well and also looks at the gender effect which adds to our understanding," she added.

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