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Quiet Women in Marital Arguments at Higher Risk of Death

Couple arguingWomen who keep quiet during a marital argument are four times more likely to die earlier than women who express themselves freely during such arguments, according to recently published research.

The researchers refer to this behavior as “self-silencing,” that is, forcing onself to hold one’s tongue during an argument instead of expressing oneself freely. The study also found a higher risk of depression and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in these women.

Eaker and her team looked at 3,682 men and women participating in the Framingham Offspring Study, most of whom were in their 40s and 50s at the beginning of the study. Study participants were followed for 10 years for the development of heart disease and for death from any cause.

The study confirmed that marriage is good for men’s health — compared with unmarried men, husbands were nearly half as likely to die during the follow-up period.

The researchers also found that men whose wives came home from work upset about their jobs were more than two and a half times as likely to develop heart disease as men with less work-stressed wives.

It’s possible, Eaker’s research suggests, that a wife’s problems on the job could be upsetting to a husband because he is unable to “protect” her in this arena.

The current study is the first, Eaker says, to look at behavior, heart disease and mortality in the context of marital relationships. While many studies have looked into marital status and quality and heart disease, none have looked at how these are affected by relationship and communication dynamics.

“Attention has been focused on the changing roles of women and the changing roles and expectations of husbands/men also need to be scrutinized and understood,” said the researchers.

The findings underscore the importance of healthy communication within marriage, Eaker says, although she does urge that other researchers confirm the results “before we make a lot out of them.”

Nevertheless, she concludes, “both spouses really need to allow another person a safe environment to express feelings when they’re in conflict,” both for their own health, and for the health of the relationship.

The study appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Source: Psychosomatic Medicine

Quiet Women in Marital Arguments at Higher Risk of Death

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Quiet Women in Marital Arguments at Higher Risk of Death. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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