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Nagging early grave: Study shows a nagging spouse CAN send you to an early grave

Nagging equals early grave? We’ve heard the phrase rolled out from aggrieved grumblers; perhaps we’ve even lobbed the cheeky affront ourselves: Your nagging is going to send me to an early grave! As it turns out, the phrase may be dead on – literally speaking.

According to UK’s The Telegraph on May 9, researchers out of Denmark released a study showing that couples who are in high stress relationships because of nit-picking spouses are two to three times more likely to kick the can early than those who have stable, satisfying marriages. The study, done by the University of Copenhagen, also showed that – no surprise here – men are most at risk from a niggling, irksome wife. Why? Because evidently, men keep their emotions bottled up more, and have no “outlet,” as it were, to air out and unburden their frustrations.

Researchers found that out of 100,000 people studied, 315 died prematurely. Their deaths were found attributable to high-stress relationships, unreasonable demands from their partners and an overall lack of support from their significant others. Various studies have been done over the years linking stress to a range of physical ailments – health disorders like heart disease and stroke, emotional exhaustion which can lead to poor eating habits, sleep problems, depression, deteriorating relationships and even suicide.

Reports an article from Awake!: “Stress activates an amazing system in your body—your emergency response system. Hormones are released to increase your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. In addition, reserves of blood cells and glucose flood into your bloodstream. This cascade of reactions prepares you to deal with the stressor, the stimulus causing the stress. After the stressor has passed, your body may return to normal. But when a stressor remains, it can leave you chronically anxious or tense, like a motor that stays revved up. So learning how to deal with stress is important to both your physical and your mental well-being.”

The author of the study, Dr. Rikke Lund from the Section of Social Medicine and Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen, said: “Men also have fewer people in their social network than women who tend to share their problems and worries with more people. Their partner is more important to [men] in a relatively small social network.”

Lund suggested that as a society, more emphasis should be placed on the problem as a whole, rather than the person. “It is interesting that we have identified that males who are exposed to worries and demands by their partners have higher mortality and are the ones we should focus on,” Dr. Lund said. “We tend to struggle to reach this group with public health interventions and maybe we should be focused less on the individual and more on social networks as a whole.”

The study, first published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, also found one category of men who were especially susceptible – those who are unemployed. Perhaps because they are home more and under the thumb of a nagging spouse, or possibly because a man’s career can serve as a conduit of sorts to shake out frustrations felt in the home.

In one phase of the study, reports The Independent, scientists studied data from 9,875 men and women – all relatively young – who were married or in lengthy relationships. All were between 36 and 52, and they were asked a variety of questions about their everyday social relationships. Eleven years later, when researchers revisited the individuals, they found that well over 200 of the men had died, and slightly under 200 of the women had passed away. Nearly half of the deaths were from cancer, but the other half suffered from ailments attributable to stress. Results were extrapolated to arrive at the figures in the study.

“Having an argument every now and then is fine, but having it all the time seems dangerous,” Dr. Lund, told Live Science. “Worrying about people is a character of us loving them. It's just when it takes up all of your time that it's unhealthy.”

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