For the second week in a row here at PPSC, we are delving into the thorny question of how relationships influence mental health. Last week saw a discussion of the various ways having a stable partner can relieve neurotic tendencies; now we have the converse, a new study which suggests stressful relationships actually shorten your life. The article in question was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Danish researchers gave nearly 10,000 people a standard questionnaire about how often they experience conflict with friends, neighbors, family members and other people. A longitudinal follow-up found a strong correlation:
Eleven years later, 422 of them were no longer living. That’s a typical number. What’s compelling, Rikke Lund and her colleagues at University of Copenhagen say, is that the people who answered "always" or "often" in any of these cases were two to three times more likely to be among the dead. (And the deaths were from standard causes: cancer, heart disease, alcohol-related liver disease, etc.—not murder. . .)
The question with all associations like this is which is the chicken and which the egg. Do conflict-ridden relationships lead to early death, or do people who instigate conflicts already suffer from poor health, when then drives the conflicts? Although the researchers applied the standard regressive statistical tools to determine what was going on here, the study’s design still doesn’t really answer these basic questions.
Yet the correlation is powerful. Stress and conflict are clearly associated with poor health and diminished life spans. It would make sense, then, to take active steps to repair combative relationships and end destructive ones. One of the easiest ways is to do so is to understand yourself better.
PPSC offers focused relationship therapy as part of an ongoing commitment to analytic therapy in New York. If you want to understand where your conflicts come from and why they seem to persist no matter how hard you work, contact us today to learn how you can find a therapist in New York.