Turns out a good fight with your husband or wife may also be good for your health, a new study finds.
Preliminary results from a University of Michigan study found couples that suppress anger die earlier than couples in which one or both partners express their anger and resolve the conflict.
Researchers looked at 192 couples in Tecumseh, Mich. during a 17-year period placing them into one of four categories. The first category included couples in which both partners communicated their anger.
The second and third groups included one spouse that expresses while the other suppresses anger and the forth group involved couples where both the husband and wife suppress their anger and brood, lead author Ernest Harburg said in a press release.
"Comparison between couples in which both people suppress their anger, and the three other types of couples, are very intriguing," said Harburg, professor emeritus of the U-M School of Public Health and the psychology department.
When both spouses suppress their anger at the other when unfairly attacked, earlier death was twice as likely than in all other types.
"When couples get together, one of their main jobs is reconciliation about conflict," Harburg said. "Usually nobody is trained to do this.
"If you bury your anger, and you brood on it," he continued, "you resent the other person or the attacker, and you don't try to resolve the problem, then you're in trouble."
Of the 192 couples studied, 26 pairs both suppressed their anger and there were 13 deaths in that group. In the remaining 166 pairs, there were 41 deaths combined.
In 27 percent of those couples in which both suppressed their anger, one member of the couple died during the study period, and in 23 percent of those couples both died during the study period.
Of the three other groups combined, just 6 percent of couples saw both spouses die. Only 19 percent in the remaining three groups combined saw one partner die during the study period.
The study adjusted for age, smoking, weight, blood pressure, bronchial problems, breathing, and cardiovascular risk, Harburg said.
The researchers are now collecting 30-year follow-up data, which will have almost double the death rate, he said.