The grief of losing a loved one can cause life-threatening inflammation, new research shows. Researchers at Rice University interviewed 99 people who had lost a spouse in the last two weeks, and took blood samples.
Compared to the most composed, those who were struggling to move on, depressed, and pining for their lost loved one had 53.4 percent more inflammation in their bodies.
Lead author Chris Fagundes, an assistant professor of psychological sciences, said certain symptoms of grief can drive up mortality risk. 'Previous research has shown that inflammation contributes to almost every disease in older adulthood,' Dr Fagundes said.
'We also know that depression is linked to higher levels of inflammation, and those who lose a spouse are at considerably higher risk of major depression, heart attack, stroke and premature mortality. However, this is the first study to confirm that grief — regardless of people's levels of depressive symptoms — can promote inflammation, which in turn can cause negative health outcomes.'
Dr Fagundes' second study zooms in closer, with he taking a broader attempt to understand how grief impacts our physiological health.
One team at the University of Glasgow followed 4,000 couples and found spouses were about a third more likely to die within six months of their partner. Another Israeli group found the risk soared 50 percent.
According to the American Heart Association, 'broken heart syndrome' can cause severe, short-term heart muscle failure and can be fatal.