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Too Much or Too Little Conflict Creates Stress

A Danish health survey asked almost 10,000 people between ages 36 and 52, "In your everyday life, do you experience conflicts with any of the following people—your partner, children, other family members, friends, or neighbors?" Eleven years later, 422 of them were no longer living. That's a typical number. What's compelling, the researchers noted, is that the people who answered "always" or "often" in any of these cases were two to three times more likely to be among the dead. (And the deaths were from standard causes: cancer, heart disease, alcohol-related liver disease, etc.—not murder.)

The researchers concluded, "Stressful social relations are associated with increased mortality risk among middle-aged men and women." That's why they recommended that we develop what they called "skills in handling worries and demands from close social relations as well as conflict management."

But in case you think that all conflict is bad, people who said they "never" experience conflict from social relationships had a slightly higher mortality rate than those who "seldom" do. In other words, perhaps a little conflict is good for your health.

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