London, Apr 4 (UNI) Men are more likely to die of broken heart as a recent study says losing a wife puts the widower at a sixfold higher risk of death, while a widow's chances of dying are doubled.
The risk peaks for either surviving partner in the first year after bereavement and then declines, according to the study.
Experts believe the stress caused by loss can depress the immune system of a surviving spouse, which may make existing medical conditions worse.
The emotional strain also causes some bereaved partners to kill themselves, while others neglect their health and diet.
Dr Jaap Spreeuw, senior lecturer in actuarial science at Cass Business School in London, said his research confirms the impact 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,'' he added.
''It statistically proves that people can die of a broken heart during the earliest stages of bereavement. The effect is stronger for older people who have been married longer,'' Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
''The good news is that after the first years of mourning, the chance of dying goes down. Although it remains higher than for couples where neither partner has died, it does lessen over time,'' Dr Spreeuw informed.
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, the research found.
''This seems to suggest that the broken heart syndrome has a stronger impact on men than on women,'' said Dr Spreeuw.
Andrew Papadopoulos, a consultant psychologist working at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, said studies suggest suicide pushes up the death rate among the newly bereaved.
''The loss of a much loved marriage partner is an enormous emotional event and, for older men, it may bring huge role reversal changes. They may not have had to cook or do laundry regularly before,'' Dr Papadopoulos told Daily Mail.
''The stress on the immune system can have a deleterious effect on health, but research also shows that those who feel their lives are meaningless and hopeless after the death of a marital partner are particularly at risk. Anyone in this situation should speak to their doctor,'' he added.
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