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Study: Arguing With Significant Other Could Have Adverse Health Effects

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Scott and Dana Griffith have been married for 20 years and, like every other couple, they’ve had their share of disagreements, occasionally losing tempers and holding grudges.

“If I’m crabby from not sleeping or I’m tired, then that would definitely help trigger a snappage,” Scott Griffith said.

But arguing with a spouse may do more than put you in a bad mood. As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, a new study shows it could put your health at risk.

To see what kind of physical impact emotional confrontations might have, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center set up an experiment.

“We brought couples into the lab and had them discuss a marital problem — to fight — and they also provided blood samples before and after the conflict,” said Stephanie Wilson, a lead researcher on the study.

Researchers tested those blood samples for signs of inflammation — to see if there were any changes before and after the argument. In couples who argued and were also sleep deprived, there were surprising results.

“When both of those factors came into play, we saw about a 10 percent increase in inflammation,” Wilson said.

One fight after a sleepless night isn’t likely to cause major health problems, but if it’s a pattern, long-term inflammation is linked to serious conditions.

“They range from things like cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 killer; arthritis; osteoporosis; Type 2 diabetes,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, senior author and director of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

The good news is couples who resolved conflicts calmly and effectively saw no increase in inflammation, giving credence to the age-old notion that couples should never go to bed angry.

“It’s really important for couples to find good ways to process a relationship and think about how they disagree,” Kiecolt-Glaser said.

The magic number in the study was seven hours of sleep. Less than that and inflammation went up with an argument.

And its not just arguing with a spouse. People who are sleep deprived and chronically stressed or angry at work, that could also lead to inflammation and health problems.

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