Marriage, Cigarettes, and Health

If you think marital strife isn’t a big deal, think again.  While it’s normal to argue with your spouse, the way that you argue could have detrimental effects on your health that are far worse than you may think.

Marital fighting that includes hostility may have the same effect on your health as smoking or having high cholesterol. In other words, you could be a health nut who eats nothing but spinach, berries, and salmon each day and still have the same chance of dying from cancer as a smoker if you fight nasty with your spouse.  How’s that for a wake up call?

Arguing is bound to happen in marriage, but the key is to argue without hostility or personal attacks.  If you already have a habit of fighting dirty, it may require some real practice to change this pattern because marital fighting usually activates an automatic response set.  This can feel a lot like traveling down the Autobahns in a personal rocket.  Once you’re off and running, the brakes are tough to find.

Marital fighting that includes hostility also significantly lowers your immune system in a mere 24 hrs.  In one study, couples who voluntarily subjected to blistering healed twice as slowly after a hostile argument than those who argued without hostility.  This one is worth repeating:  injuries heal twice as slowly after hostile marital fighting.  This result has huge implications for surgical patients.  Better make nice with your better half before undergoing the knife.

On the flip side, marital satisfaction helps mitigate the effects of physical pain and chronic stress, too.  Research has shown that the higher degree of marital satisfaction, the more your spouse or partner’s presence can blunt the effects of physical pain.  One recent study on the connection between marriage and pain control found that a spouse can be just as effective in reducing pain as prescription pain medication.

The take home message is this:  marital satisfaction is an essential part of healthy lifestyle.  You can go vegan, stop smoking, reduce your caffeine intake, and drink your greens…. but if you’re living out War of the Roses at home, it’s not going to do you much good.  You may as well smoke a pack of cigarettes a day.

There you have it, folks.  Hostile marital fighting, cigarettes, and your health-it’s amazing, isn’t it?  The fact that mean spirited fighting within your marriage can have such a devastating affect on your health?  Be nice and make up.  It’s not worth your health.

Thanks to the New York Times for publishing an article on such landbreaking research on marriage and health.  Thanks more specifically to Drs. Glaser and Keicolt-Glaser for their commitment to such a fascinating area of research (and each other!).  You’re vastly improving the quality of people’s lives with your work together.  You can read the full article here:



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