Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Quick Studies

argument.jpg

(Photo: smilekerry/Flickr)

Getting Nagged by Loved Ones Might Be Your Death Sentence

• May 15, 2014 • 10:21 AM

(Photo: smilekerry/Flickr)

People who clash with their partners and children are more likely to die.

It’s possible to nag somebody to death, and domestic arguments can be fataleven when there’s no physical violence.

It’s long been known that having loved ones in your life can help keep you feeling, well, full of life. A literature review of 148 studies published in PLoS Medicine four years ago uncovered an “increased likelihood of survival” for those who enjoyed “stronger social relationships,” regardless of their age, gender, health condition at the beginning of each of the studies, or even their eventual cause of death.

But what happens when family members are a source of constant stress in somebody’s life, providing more tension than tenderness? Previous research has found that stressful family relations can be unhealthy; the variable has been linked to endocrine regulation problems, poor cardiovascular health, and immune deficiencies. Now, researchers in Denmark, who studied data gathered on nearly 10,000 middle-aged Danes over 11 years, have reported that family stresses can not only contribute to health problems—they can become lethal.

Those in stressful family situations could find it harder to stop smoking, may drink more alcohol, and exercise less frequently than others.

According to the findings, published last week in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, frequent worries and demands from partners or children were associated with a 50 to 100 percent increased chance of dying during the period analyzed. “Frequent conflicts” with these family members, meanwhile, could make somebody two to three times more likely to die.

“I think these potential stressors in life are common to humans all over the world,” says Rikke Lund, an associate professor in the University of Copenhagen’s public health department. “I have no reason to believe that the health consequences of serious worries or demands, and conflicts with social relations, should be an isolated Danish phenomenon.”

The researchers analyzed data gathered during a national sampling program undertaken in 2000. Those Danes who were surveyed as part of the program were asked, among other things, how frequently their family members, friends, and neighbors demanded too much of them or seriously worried them. They were also asked how frequently they experienced “conflicts” with those around them.

The researchers compared this data with information from a death registry 11 years later, by which point four percent of the women and six percent of men who took part in the study had died.

“Conflicts with any type of social relation were associated with higher mortality risk, and those who always or often experienced conflicts with their social relations were at markedly higher risk of premature death,” the researchers write. “Generally, adjustment for depressive symptoms and emotional support at baseline only attenuated the associations slightly and did not change the overall conclusions.”

Men who endured worries and demands from their partners were especially likely to die during the study period, the researchers found. But why?

Lund says those in stressful family situations could find it harder to stop smoking, may drink more alcohol, and exercise less frequently than others. She added that “stress has a number of consequences,” both physiological, such as increased levels of blood pressure and higher levels of stress hormones, and psychological, such as depression.

John Upton
John Upton is a science journalist with an ecology background. He has written recently for VICE, Slate, Nautilus, Modern Farmer, Grist, and Audubon magazine. He blogs at Wonk on the Wildlife. Upton's favorite eukaryotes are fungi, but he won't fault you for being human. Follow him on Twitter @johnupton.

More From John Upton

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 26 • 4:00 PM

Turmoil at JPMorgan

Examiners are reportedly blocked from doing their job as “London Whale” trades blow up.


November 26 • 2:00 PM

Rich Kids Are More Likely to Be Working for Dad

Nepotism is alive and well, especially for the well-off.


November 26 • 12:00 PM

How Do You Make a Living, Taxidermist?

Taxidermist Katie Innamorato talks to Noah Davis about learning her craft, seeing it become trendy, and the going-rate for a “Moss Fox.”


November 26 • 10:28 AM

Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals’ actions pile up quickly.


November 26 • 10:13 AM

Honeybees Touring America


November 26 • 10:00 AM

Understanding Money

In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester explains how the monied people talk about their mountains of cash.


November 26 • 8:00 AM

The Exponential Benefits of Eating Less

Eating less food—whole food and junk food, meat and plants, organic and conventional, GMO and non-GMO—would do a lot more than just better our personal health.


November 26 • 6:00 AM

The Incorruptible Bodies of Saints

Their figures were helped along by embalming, but, somehow, everyone forgot that part.


November 26 • 4:00 AM

The Geography of Real Estate Markets Is Shifting Under Our Feet

Policies aimed at unleashing supply in order to make housing more affordable are relying on outdated models.



November 25 • 4:00 PM

Is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Doing Enough to Monitor Wall Street?

Bank President William Dudley says supervision is stronger than ever, but Democratic senators are unconvinced: “You need to fix it, Mr. Dudley, or we need to get someone who will.”


November 25 • 3:30 PM

Cultural Activities Help Seniors Retain Health Literacy

New research finds a link between the ability to process health-related information and regular attendance at movies, plays, and concerts.


November 25 • 12:00 PM

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

You can thank the rise of the vibrator for that, according to technology historian Rachel Maines.


November 25 • 10:08 AM

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.


November 25 • 10:00 AM

If It’s Yellow, Seriously, Let It Mellow

If you actually care about water and the future of the species, you’ll think twice about flushing.


November 25 • 8:00 AM

Sometimes You Should Just Say No to Surgery

The introduction of national thyroid cancer screening in South Korea led to a 15-fold increase in diagnoses and a corresponding explosion of operations—but no difference in mortality rates. This is a prime example of over-diagnosis that’s contributing to bloated health care costs.



November 25 • 6:00 AM

The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow

Despise The Avengers? Loathe the snobs who despise The Avengers? You’re not the first.


November 25 • 4:00 AM

Are Women More Open to Sex Than They Admit?

New research questions the conventional wisdom that men overestimate women’s level of sexual interest in them.


November 25 • 2:00 AM

The Geography of Innovation, or, Why Almost All Japanese People Hate Root Beer

Innovation is not a product of population density, but of something else entirely.


November 24 • 4:00 PM

Federal Reserve Announces Sweeping Review of Its Big Bank Oversight

The Federal Reserve Board wants to look at whether the views of examiners are being heard by higher-ups.



November 24 • 2:00 PM

That Catcalling Video Is a Reminder of Why Research Methods Are So Important

If your methods aren’t sound then neither are your findings.


November 24 • 12:00 PM

Yes, Republicans Can Still Win the White House

If the economy in 2016 is where it was in 2012 or better, Democrats will likely retain the White House. If not, well….


November 24 • 11:36 AM

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it’s relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.


Follow us


Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals' actions pile up quickly.

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it's relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.