Not surprisingly, the way you argue with your significant other apparently has an impact on your health. I say “not surprisingly” because arguing is nearly always stressful for both parties involved, and researchers have long shown the link between stress and health problems.

Tara Parker-Pope over at the New York Times brings us an update about how we argue in a relationship and its effects on our health. She looks at two studies, one of which we noted last year that found that the expression of hostility or when women acted in a more controlling manner led to an increase of hardening of the arteries in the heart. In the other study Parker-Pope discusses research that was published in July:

In men, keeping quiet during a fight didn’t have any measurable effect on health. But women who didn’t speak their minds in those fights were four times as likely to die during the 10-year study period as women who always told their husbands how they felt, according to the July report in Psychosomatic Medicine. Whether the woman reported being in a happy marriage or an unhappy marriage didn’t change her risk.

The problem, of course, is that there’s no causal relationship shown or claimed to be shown by this data (as is so often the case in the studies we comment on here). The women didn’t die from remaining silent. But there was this statistical relationship the researchers found. Alternative explanations abound, such as women who are more quiet are perhaps not as assertive in their healthcare needs, find more aggressive or violence-prone spouses, etc.

Of course, this never stops a researcher from making the outrageous claim:

“When you’re suppressing communication and feelings during conflict with your husband, it’s doing something very negative to your physiology, and in the long term it will affect your health,” said Elaine Eaker, an epidemiologist in Gaithersburg, Md., who was the study’s lead author. “This doesn’t mean women should start throwing plates at their husbands, but there needs to be a safe environment where both spouses can equally communicate.”

Maybe, maybe not. This research certainly didn’t show this. But it’s fun to speculate, isn’t it?

Read the full entry: Marital Spats, Taken to Heart