After an argument with your partner, you’re probably mainly concerned about why you’re fighting. But you should also consider how you’re fighting. Whether you fly off the handle or avoid your emotions could hint at future health problems, according to a study published in the journal Emotion.
The study comes from researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Northwestern University and includes 20 years of data. Every five years, the researchers videotaped 156 heterosexual couples talking about parts of their lives that gave them pleasure and problems. These interactions, including their body language, were then examined by behavior experts who noted whether the person was angry or suppressing their anger through stonewalling. Health symptoms were also measured every five years and linked to these conversations.
The researchers found those who outwardly displayed anger by pressing their lips together, raising or lowering their voices, or furling their eyebrows were more likely to develop chest pain and blood pressure issues later in life. Not expressing anger was also problematic—but in a different way. Those who shut down emotionally—which researchers picked up on when people avoided eye contact and were tense in their faces and necks—were are a higher risk of developing a bad back and stiff joints. The correlation appeared more strongly among men, but it was found in women too.
Ready to rethink your fighting style? Next time there’s an argument brewing, try meditating to stay calm. Or, if you’re guilty of stonewalling, do this neck-opener exercise to fend off stiff joints.