Bereaved parents likely to die of 'broken heart'

Bereaved parents likely to die of 'broken heart'

Bereaved parents likely to die of 'broken heart'

Researchers at York and Stirling universities in the UK found that bereaved parents were up to four times more likely to die or become widowed in the decade following the child's death.

This applied to parents who suffered a stillbirth, or whose baby died in the first year of life, the Daily Mail reported.

Past studies have suggested there is a similar effect after the death of a spouse, which is often referred to as dying of a "broken heart". But the impact of losing a child has not been analysed to the same extent.

The new research, published in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care, is the first to look at the effect on British parents.

The effect, according to the researchers, is particularly pronounced in mothers, who are 1.5 times more likely to die early in the first 25 years after a death compared to mothers who have not lost a baby.

At 35 years, the risk was still 1.2 times higher for bereaved mothers compared to those who had not lost a baby, they said.

Describing their findings as a "major concern", the authors said large-scale studies are needed to identify the causes of death and whether anything can be done to help the bereaved parents.

"The stress of bereavement may involve significant physiological effects -- for example suppressing the immune system thereby increasing one's propensity to disease," they said.

Another theory is that stillbirths and infant deaths are more common in people with poor health, thereby contributing to their own lower life expectancy.