Whether it's with your friend, coworker, partner, child, or another family member, communication is tricky and sometimes, when words fail us and lines get crossed, it can result in an argument. However, how long you let that disagreement and tension fester isn't just key for maintaining your relationships, but also in terms of your own well-being. According to a new study out of Oregon State University, if you let an argument last for a certain amount of time without resolving it, it could directly affect your health. Read on to find out how long is too long for an argument to last, and for more on how to handle a spat, here's The One Word You Should Never Say During an Argument, Experts Warn.
If your argument lasts more than a day, you're likely to experience more negative feelings.
The Oregon State University researchers sought to find out how arguments and resolved arguments affect our emotional responses and health, publishing their findings in The Journals of Gerontology in January. They used data from the National Study of Daily Experiences, which contained interviews with more than 2,000 people over the course of eight consecutive days.
They found that those who resolved an argument on the day it occurred felt only half the amount of increase in negative emotions that those who had not resolved their argument yet felt. And the day after the argument, those who had resolved their spats the day before showed no prolonged increase of negative emotions. So resolving any disagreements on the day they happen should always be your goal—which aligns with the common guidance to "never go to bed angry."
Arguments are a type of daily stressor that can affect your well-being.
Arguments are described as an acute stressor, the researchers explain. Acute stress results from specific events or situations while chronic stress results from repeated exposure to situations that raise our stress, like living in poverty, as the Centre for Studies on Human Stress notes.
While research has long shown the ways that chronic stress can affect health, researcher Dakota Witzel, lead author for the study and a doctoral student, explained that "daily stressors, specifically the minor, small inconveniences that we have throughout the day" can also have lasting effects—especially when they are associated with increased negative emotions.
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And unresolved stressors have a higher risk of affecting your health.
It probably doesn't surprise you to learn that unresolved stressors have a higher risk of affecting your health and well-being. "Research has linked interpersonal everyday stressors to poorer emotional well-being, more pain, and increases in heart rate, blood pressure and pulse rate, and alpha-amylase," the study authors explain. So if you want to feel your best, you should resolve your daily stressors before you go to sleep that night.
"Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. You aren’t going to stop stressful things from happening. 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," the study's senior author Robert Stawski, PhD, an associate professor at Oregon State University, said in a statement. "Resolving your arguments is quite important for maintaining well-being in daily life."
Older people are more likely to resolve their arguments day-of.
According to the study, adults ages 68 and older were more than 40 percent more likely than people 45 years or younger to resolve their arguments in a timely manner. The researchers hypothesized this could be because older adults may be more motivated to minimize negative emotions as they have fewer years left to live. They also likely have more experience with arguments due to their age, and may be more effective at ending or defusing them.
"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," Stawski explained.
And if you're the one who needs to say sorry, know that This Is the One Word You Should Never Say When Apologizing.