May 9, 2014
Middle Age Men Face Double The Risk Of Death Due To Social Stress
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Mental health experts have long touted the benefits of a strong social support network, particularly in times of stress. But what if that support network is a source of stress?
A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health has found that frequent arguments with friends and family can actually increase mortality in middle age, especially in men and those not gainfully employed.
Study author Rikke Lund, of the University of Copenhagen Department of Publich Health, told the Daily Mail that men could be particularly susceptible to the negative effects of constant conflict because they tend to have smaller social networks than women.
“Previous research seem to say it is stress on your cardiovascular system which is associated with increase in blood pressure which is associated with heart disease,” she told the British news organization. “Men to report smaller networks than women. They say their spouse or partner is their main confident. They may have a good friend or close colleague but their network is smaller.”
“Women tend to have larger networks and they share the stress they have with good friends and family member,” Lund added. “Men will limit their conversations with friends and family. The one person they have as a confident is actually the one putting the worries and demands on them then that could be making them more vulnerable.”
For the study, the team surveyed almost 10,000 individuals between 36 and 52 years of age on their closest social relationships. All the volunteers were already participants in the Danish Longitudinal Study on Work, Unemployment and Health.
The social scientists looked at whom in a person’s social network – partners, children, other relatives, friends and neighbors – were a source of stress or conflict, and how often conflict arose. They also looked to see if having a job had an effect. Mortality of study volunteers was tracked from 2000 to the end of 2011 with information from the Danish Cause of Death Registry.
Almost half the 226 men and 196 women who died during the study period did so from cancer, while circulatory issues, liver disease, and accidents and suicide comprised the remainder.
Around 10 percent of volunteers said that their partner or children were a regular source of stress, about six percent said this was true about other relatives and two percent said the same for friends. Six percent said they had recurrent disputes with their partner or children, two percent with other family members, and one percent with friends or neighbors.
After considering confounding factors, the investigation revealed that frequent worries or demands associated with close relationships were linked to a 50- to 100-percent elevated mortality rate from all causes.
Regular arguments with anyone in the social circle were linked with a 100- to 200-percent increase in mortality rate as opposed to volunteers who said these incidents were uncommon.
Additionally, participants who were unemployed were at noticeably greater risk than those who had very similar stressors but were employed. Men also seemed to be significantly prone to stress attributed to their female partners, with a bigger likelihood of death than that commonly linked with being a man or with this particular relationship stress factor.
While personality may have a part in how people respond to stress, the authors noted that conflict management skills may also help to lower premature deaths linked with social relationship stress.