In a new study which examines behaviour, heart disease and mortality in the context of marriage, U.S. researchers have found that suffering in silence can be detrimental to a woman's health.
According to the new research women who express themselves freely during rows are four times less likely to die over a 10-year period than those who bottle up their emotions.
They say women who suppress their emotions and force themselves to remain silent during marital arguments have a higher risk for depression and irritable bowel syndrome as well as death.
Dr. Elaine D. Eaker of Eaker Epidemiology Enterprises in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the study's lead author, says though such "self-silencing" during conflict may have provided an evolutionary survival advantage long ago, it unfortunately may be a necessity for women in abusive relationships.
Dr. Eaker and her colleagues found that, over a 10-year period, the most significant finding was that women who self-silenced were four times more likely to die than women who expressed themselves freely during marital arguments.
Eaker says the study is the first to look these issues in the context of marital relationships by questioning the dynamics of what actually happens in a marriage and how people really feel.
For the study Eaker and her team looked at 3,682 men and women taking part in the Framingham Offspring Study; most were in their 40s and 50s at the beginning of the study and they were tracked for a 10 year period for the development of heart disease and for death from any cause.
The study results confirmed that marriage is good for men's health as compared with unmarried men, husbands were nearly half as likely to die during the follow-up period.
As far as men were concerned the researchers also found that men whose wives came home from work upset about their jobs were 2.7 times as likely to develop heart disease as men with less work-stressed wives.
The researchers suggest, that a wife's work problems may upset a husband because he is unable to "protect" her in this arena.
Dr. Eaker and her team say attention has been focused on the changing roles of women, but the changing roles and expectations of husbands and men also need to be scrutinized and understood.
They say their findings highlight the importance of healthy communication within marriage, and the importance of allowing another person a safe environment to express feelings when they're in conflict, both for their own health, and for the health of the relationship.
The study is published in the current issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.