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Mutual Resentment in Marriage Can Be Deadly
Date:2/8/2008

Study finds spouses die sooner in unions where anger is suppressed

FRIDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Experts say the secret to a long marriage is communication, and new research now notes it's also the key to a long life.

A lengthy study of Midwestern couples finds that those who felt free to express their feelings lived longer than the perennially resentful. The couples with the most unexpressed anger died the earliest.

"The worst thing to do is to keep it in, not talk about the problem, brood about it, and be continuously angry," said study author Ernest Harburg, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. "Not talking about the problems in your close relationship is not good for your longevity."

The findings may seem obvious, but Harburg said previous research hadn't pinned down a connection between lifespan and level of marital communication. It's important, he said, to confirm what seems to be so.

Harburg and his colleagues have been following 192 couples from the small town of Tecumseh, Mich., for 17 years. The study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Family Communication, examines what happened to them between 1971 and 1988.

About 14 percent of the couples were defined as "anger-in" types, meaning both spouses developed resentments and failed to resolve problems. "They don't talk about the problem, and when they do, they just start fighting again," Harburg said.

After the mortality rates among the participants were adjusted for the impact of things like heart disease and smoking, the "anger-in" couples still died earlier than couples who handled anger in other ways.

Of the 192 couples studied, both spouses in 26 pairs suppressed their anger; there were 13 deaths in that group. With the remaining 166 couples, there was a total of 41 deaths. Both spouses died in 23 percent of the mutual suppression couples during the s
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