Posted on Jun 26, 2014, 6 a.m.
Conflicts in relationships with friends, family and neighbors may contribute to an earlier death.
Numerous studies suggest health-protecting effects of support from a social network and close connections with family and friends. Rikke Lund, from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), and colleagues explored the influence of stressful social relationships on the risks of death. Analyzing data collected in The Danish Longitudinal Study on Work, Unemployment and Health, involving 9,875 men and women, ages 36 to 52 years, and following them for 11 years, the team surveyed the extent of stressful social relationships to cause worries and conflicts, and assessed emotional support and symptoms of depression. During the study period, 4% of the women and 6% of the men died. Almost half the deaths were from cancer; other causes included cardiovascular disease, liver disease, accidents and suicide. About one in every 10 participants said that their partner or children were always or often a source of demands and worries. Six percent said they always or often experienced conflicts with other members of their families and 2% reported always or often having conflicts with friends. The researchers also found that 6% of participants had frequent arguments with their partner or children, 2% with other relatives and 1 % with friends or neighbors. People who always or often experienced worries or demands because of their partners had double the risk of dying compared to those who seldom had those experiences. Participants who always or often experienced worries and demands from their children had about a 50% increase in risk of death. Frequent conflicts also were linked to an increased risk of dying. Participants who always or often experienced conflicts with their partners or friends had more than double the risk of dying, and if they argued with neighbors, the risk more than tripled. Having conflicts or worries and demands, and not being part of the labor force was linked to a risk of death about 4.5 times that of a person without those problems. The study authors conclude that: “Stressful social relations are associated with increased mortality risk among middle-aged men and women for a variety of different social roles.”
Rikke Lund, Ulla Christensen, Charlotte Juul Nilsson, Margit Kriegbaum, Naja Hulvej Rod. “Stressful social relations and mortality: a prospective cohort study.” J Epidemiol Community Health, 8 May 2014.