How You Handle Discord May Predict Future Illness


A new study has just come out from UC Berkley  and Northwestern University that followed married couples for 20 years. This study looked at how couples behaved during conflict and the illness that they developed. What they found was this:

  • People who rage with frustration tend to develop high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.
  • Those who keep “a stiff upper lip,” shutting down, or “stonewalling” tend to develop musculoskeletal problems such as back problems or muscle stiffness.


The authors of the study believe that their research shows how emotions effect health and how long-term behaviors can negatively affect health. By looking at marital conflict conversations for just 15 minutes researchers could predict with amazing accuracy the development of health issues which would occur 20 years later.


What I would like to know is this: what about the couples who had deep meaningful respectful conversations when they fought? Or what about the people who for some reason or another changed their behaviors through meditation later in the study. Did this change of behavior result in a decreased risk of developing health problems?

As a person who has been a yeller most of her adult life but has now stopped, I would love to know if my change in behaviors will have a positive outcome for my health in the future. Will my daily meditation change the course of my life? Of course, we have no way of knowing that but I would like to think that by creating meaningful change in my life I am making a difference in my health and the health of my loved ones. I can already see changes…Paul is calmer and does not react our of anger like he used to. He is modeling his behavior after my new behaviors and I am thankful for that.

Studies like these are important. By connecting negative (and positive) emotions to positive or negative changes in our health it gives individuals a reason to change their behaviors. I would like to think that had I realized the damage I was doing to my health by yelling that I might have changed my ways of interacting much sooner than I did and I might have saved my family from a lot of unnecessary grief.

One thought on “How You Handle Discord May Predict Future Illness

  1. I would think the yelling, rage, outbursts cause your heart to beat faster because of the adrenaline which maybe then leads to the heart problems over time? So if my theory is correct, then any time a person doesn’t yell or have rage would have a positive effect on the health.


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