Settling your differences before bedtime ‘could prolong lifespan’

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Most of us are guilty of stewing over a disagreement and failing to make peace for a few days – or even longer. But a new Oregon State University study has shown that adults who solve differences on the same day have reduced stress levels and this could have a major impact on overall health.

“Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. You aren’t going to stop stressful things from happening,” said Robert Stawski, senior author on the study and an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

“But the extent to which you can tie them off, bring them to an end and resolve them is definitely going to pay dividends in terms of your well-being. Resolving your arguments is quite important for maintaining well-being in daily life.”

It is well known that stress is linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as well as physical problems including heart disease, gastrointestinal complications, reproductive challenges and a weakened immune system.

However, experts have now insisted that it’s not just major problems such as unemployment, bereavement or poverty that can have a lasting impact on wellbeing.

“Daily stressors – specifically the minor, small inconveniences that we have throughout the day – even those have lasting impacts on mortality and things like inflammation and cognitive function,” said Dakota Witzel, lead author and a doctoral student in human development and family studies at Oregon State University.

More than 2,000 people were interviewed about their feelings over a period of eight days, and researchers also analysed reports of arguments before measuring how this impacted the participants’ positive and negative emotions.

Reactivity (how an experience affects someone emotionally on the same day) and residue (the emotional toll on a person the day after the experience) were measured.

The study concluded that people who felt an argument had been resolved the same day it happened reported half the reactivity of those who felt they had not settled their differences.

And when it came to residue, people who believed the matter had been resolved showed no prolonged elevation of negative emotions on the days after the encounter.

Adults aged 68 and older were 40 per cent more likely than those aged 45 and younger to report their conflict had been resolved. Experts believe this may be because the older age group is aware they have fewer years remaining, or because they have more experience in resolving disputes.

“Some people are more reactive than other people,” Stawski said. “But the extent to which you can tie off the stress so it’s not having this gnawing impact at you over the course of the day or a few days will help minimise the potential long-term impact.”

Cover-Fitness via Reuters Connect