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Arguing with your spouse can be pretty bruising for both husband and wife. But it seems that in terms of the effecton their health, it’s men who suffer more.
A 16-year study by US researchers has found that if there is conflict in a marriage, husbands struggle more with headaches, have more trouble sleeping and are in poorer health generally.
Arguments about children, money and in-laws may raise stress hormones, which could cause problems down the line.
Lead author Rosie Shrout, from the University of Nevada, said: ‘A sense of belonging, feelings of trust, and feeling like your partner understands you are so important in relationships.
‘When people disagree, and a partner is hostile, negative and withdraws from a relationship, other studies show this causes stress which can affect the immune system and be harmful for cardiovascular health.’
The researchers, from the universities of Nevada and Michigan, questioned 373 married couples in years one, three, seven and 16 of their marriage.
Men and women were asked if in the past year they had disagreed over one of six conflict areas: money, children, religion, their relationship with the in-laws, how they got on with their own families and how they spent their leisure time.
Then they were asked about their health, including if their health interfered with their work, if they were healthy enough to do the things they wanted to do, if they were having trouble sleeping, if they sometimes felt nervous and fidgety, and whether they were troubled by headaches.
Health was scored out of five, with a higher score being healthier. Low-conflict couples reported an average score of 4.07 at the start of marriage, but high-conflict couples were unhealthier from the outset, with an average score of 3.86. The difference in health between high and low-conflict couples 16 years into a marriage was not statistically significant.
However, the results were entirely driven by men, with women seemingly suffering no effect on health from disagreeing with their partner.
Husbands who disagreed about several topics reported poorer health compared with those who disagreed about fewer topics, particularly early in a marriage, according to results presented at the annual conference of the International Association for Relationship Research in Colorado.
Although disagreeing less had health benefits early in marriage, this effect eventually wore off.