You can really die from a broken heart!

Spouses of heart attack victims have an increased risk of depression and anxiety, even if their partner survives, a new study has found.

Researchers found that men are hit harder when they lose their wife, with the level of shock suffered comparable to the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by war veterans.

The study shows for the first time that a heart attack is a bigger psychological blow to the victim's wife or husband than any other illness and highlights the need for giving them special care and attention, the Daily Express' reported.

Research in Denmark shows that spouses of people who suffer a sudden heart attack have an increased risk of depression, anxiety or suicide even if their partner survives.

It found that if they do lose their partner, people were three times as likely to be taking antidepressants within a year.

For people whose husband or wife survived, use of antidepressants still went up by 17 per cent.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the European Heart Journal, used Danish registries to compare 16,506 spouses of people who died from a heart attack between 1997 and 2008 with 49,518 spouses of people who died from other causes.

They also matched 44,566 spouses of patients who suffered a non-fatal heart attack with 131,563 spouses of people admitted to hospital for another non-fatal condition.

They then looked at the use of antidepressants – and records for depression and suicide.

There was no change for spouses of patients surviving other conditions.

"We found more than three times the number of people whose spouses died from an AMI (acute myocardial infarction) were using antidepressants in the year after the event compared with the year before.

Those whose spouse survived an AMI had a 17 per cent higher use of antidepressants," Dr Emil Fosbol, a Copenhagen cardiologist, said.

The researchers believe it is the sudden and unexpected nature of a heart attack which causes the extreme impact on the spouse.

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