In a new study, researchers found that when people feel they have resolved an argument, the emotional response linked to that disagreement is strongly reduced and, in some situations, almost entirely erased.
They say that reduction in stress may have a major impact on overall health.
The research was conducted by a team at Oregon State University.
Researchers have long been aware of how chronic stress can affect health, from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety to physical problems including heart disease, a weakened immune system, reproductive difficulties and gut issues.
But it’s not just major chronic stressors like poverty or violence that can inflict damage.
According to the team, daily stressors—specifically the minor, small inconveniences that we have throughout the day—even have lasting impacts on mortality and things like inflammation and cognitive function.
In the study, the team used data from an in-depth survey of more than 2,000 people who were interviewed about their feelings and experiences for eight days in a row.
The researchers looked at reports of both arguments and avoided arguments, defined as instances where the person could have argued about something but chose to let it slide so as not to have a disagreement.
Results showed that on the day of an argument or avoided argument, people who felt their encounter was resolved reported roughly half the negative emotions of those whose encounters were not resolved.
On the day following an argument or avoided argument, the results were even starker: People who felt the matter was resolved showed no prolonged elevation of their negative affect the next day.
The team also found that adults ages 68 and older were more than 40% more likely than people 45 and younger to report their conflicts as resolved.
But the impact of resolution status on people’s negative and positive effects remained the same regardless of age.
The team says if older adults are really motivated to maximize their emotional well-being, they’re going to do a better job, or at least a faster job, at resolving stressors in a more timely fashion.
While people cannot always control what stressors come into their lives—and lack of control is itself a stressor in many cases—they can work on their own emotional response to those stressors.
The study is published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. One author of the study is Robert Stawski.
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