Doctors have long understood the impact of grief on one's health. Now, a new study has revealed how fragile a broken heart can really be. Researchers in Britain have found that bereft people face the risk of death in the first year of being widowed.
In fact, men are six times more likely to die of a broken heart than women. According to lead researcher Dr Jaap Spreeuw of the Cass Business School in London [Images], the study has confirmed the existence of 'broken heart syndrome.
"We all know that the death of a loved one will have massive impact on the life of the husband or wife left behind, but this shows it will have direct impact on their mortality. It statistically proves that people can die of a broken heart during the earliest stages of bereavement," he said.
"The effect is stronger for older people who have been married longer. The good news is that after the first years of mourning, the chance of dying goes down," Dr Spreeuw added.
The researchers reached the conclusion after analysing 11,454 life annuity policies held by a Canadian insurer. In the study, 195 couples died at the same time. In 1,048 cases, the man died and the wife survived and in 255 couples, the woman died and the husband survived. The highest death rate was among those who had lost a partner in the preceding 12 months, and the highest risk of dying was for men.
"This seems to suggest that the broken heart syndrome has a stronger impact on men than on women," the British media quoted Dr Spreeuw as saying.
The analysis, which was sponsored by the Actuarial Profession, was designed to help insurance companies price life assurance and pension policies. "Not only does this research confirm the existence of broken heart syndrome, but it gives an idea of how long the effect lasts," Chairman of the Actuarial Profession's research steering committee, Paul Sweeting, said.
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