Grieving Adults have higher instance of mortality and physical complaints

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According to a recent synthesis of research published in the Dec 8 issue of The Lancet, grieving adults may have an increased risk for mortality as well as physical complaints. According to Margaret Stroebe, Ph.D., of Utrecht University, author of the study, men ages 55 and over have a 5% risk increase for mortality within six months of the death of their spouse. The increased rate of 5% is in comparison to a rate of 3% among men the same age whose wives were still alive. The research synthesized the findings of several studies surrounding the topic of bereavement after 1997. The findings from the sample studies varied. In fact, one study found a 66 fold increase in mortality risk for widowers. In addition to increased mortality, the study found that grieving people have an increased risk of physical complaints such as headaches, chest pain, dizziness, illness or disability, to name a few. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

Within the six months following the death of a wife, men 55 and older have a mortality rate of about 5% compared with a rate of 3% for same-age men whose wives are still living, wrote Margaret Stroebe, Ph.D., of Utrecht University, and colleagues, in the Dec. 8 issue of The Lancet.

The researchers searched the literature for studies of grief or bereavement published after 1997 and synthesized the results for a review article on the health outcomes of bereavement. They noted that most of the studies were from the U.S., Europe, and Australia.

A number of studies have focused on an excess risk of suicide while grieving for a loved one, the investigators noted, and those studies generally confirmed an increased risk for suicide, especially within the first week of bereavement — one study reported a 66-fold increased risk for widowers and an 9.6-fold increased risk for widows. Moreover, the increased risk was often associated with alcohol consumption.

In addition to excess mortality, bereavement was associated with a greater occurrence of physical complaints “ranging from physical symptoms (e.g. headaches, dizziness, indigestion, and chest pain) to high rates of disability and illness,” the authors wrote.

But while some studies found that these symptoms led to increased use of medical services, a number found no corollary with increased use of medical services, and, in one study of grieving women, doctors’ visits actually decreased.

Click here to read the entire article from Medpage Today

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