Family conflict can be harmful to your health

Created date

December 30th, 2019
An older man and a younger man sit on a couch having a discussion. The younger man looks frustrated.

An older man and a younger man sit on a couch having a discussion. The younger man looks frustrated.

Researchers have long thought that strained marital relations led to poor health, but it turns out that strained relations with adult children, siblings, or extended family may be more harmful.

In a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers analyzed data from over 2,000 participants in the “Midlife Development in the U.S.” survey. The data was collected over a period of about 20 years.

The survey included questions such as “Not including your spouse or partner, how often do members of your family criticize you?” “How much can you rely on [your family] for help if you have a serious problem?” and “How often does your spouse or partner argue with you?”

In addition to answering questions about family relationships, the participants also answered questions about their health.

Family support helps 

Results showed that after ten years, greater strain in family-of-origin relationships was associated with the development or worsening of chronic conditions and overall worse health in study participants. On the other hand, they also found that greater family support was associated with better health outcomes.

The researchers were surprised to find no significant effects of intimate partner relationships on the health outcomes of study participants.

The researchers say their results show why health care providers should consider family relationships when assessing their patients’ overall health. 

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