Grief can lead to death, reveals study

Heartbreak needs to be taken seriously because according to a recent study, grief can lead to death.

The study examined the impact grief has on human health. It builds on previous research from the lab of Chris Fagundes, the study's lead author, who studied risk factors for inflammation.

"Previous research has shown that inflammation contributes to almost every disease in older adulthood," Fagundes said. The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

"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."

According to Fagundes, this finding is an important revelation in the study of how human behaviour and activities impact inflammation levels in the body, and it adds to a growing body of work about how bereavement can affect health.

"This work shows who, among those who are bereaved, are at highest risk. Now that we know these two key findings, we can design interventions to target this risk factor in those who are most at risk through behavioral or pharmacological approaches," Fagundes said.