Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

New bereavement study reveals dying of a broken heart could really be a thing

die of a broken heart study.jpg

Someone dying of a broken heart might sound like something on the pages of film scripts and novels, but a new study indicates that bereavement increases the risk of developing an actual, potentially life-threatening heart problem.

Danish researchers have linked experiencing the loss of a partner to a higher risk of developing an irregular heartbeat – something that can lead to stroke or even heart failure. And the risk was greater in those whose loved ones died unexpectedly.

However, the (somewhat) good news is that the risk decreases over time.

The team, led by Dr Simon Graff, set out to “examine the risk of atrial fibrillation [irregular heartbeat] after the death of a partner” and found that such a stressful experience increased the risk for a year afterwards.

Assessing data from the Danish population between 1995 and 2014, the team collected information on 88,612 people newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and 886,120 healthy people, matched for age and sex. 17,478 of those with the heart problem had lost their partner, as had 168,940 of the comparison group.

The risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for the first time was 41% higher with those who had suffered a bereavement than those who hadn't, irrespective of underlying health conditions. The risk rose to 57% if the person who'd died has been assessed as being at low risk of dying in the short-term, and thus unexpected.

The highest risk, according to researchers, was among people under the age of 60, described as “more than twice as likely to develop atrial fibrillation if they had been bereaved”.

new study dying of a broken heart problem bereavement

Given the physical manifestations of stress, dying of a broken heart perhaps isn’t as unlikely as it seems.

The study, published by the journal Open Heart, points out: “The loss of a partner is considered one of the most severely stressful life events and is likely to affect most people, independently of coping mechanisms. Bereavement often causes mental illness symptoms such as depression, anxiety, guilt, anger and hopelessness.”

The research also points to previous studies having found that severely stressful life events increase the risk of cardiovascular events.

The risk was highest “8-14 days after the loss” and declined over the following 12 months, after which “the risk was almost the same as in the non-bereaved population.”

Although various factors weren’t taken into account that could potentially have a bearing on whether someone would develop an irregular heartbeat, the team pointed out that bereavement is known to increase cardiovascular disease, mental illness, and even death, and that people who suffer from atrial fibrillation report emotional stress as a trigger.

Images: iStock

Related

hospital pets 1.jpg

Inside the genius hospital where pets can comfort their sick owners

satisfaction.jpg

Married people are the most satisfied with their lives

iStock_000045280982_XXXLarge.jpg

Britons are missing out on a whole night of sleep every week

Credit Suszi Lurie McFadden.jpg

Widow, Lucy Kalanithi, on how to grieve and breathe after death

brad-and-angelina.jpg

The way you kiss could reveal everything about your relationship

311_tablet_feat_anxiety_LEAD1_v3.jpg

The curse of night-time anxiety

reading.jpg

How reading for pleasure could be key to a less stressed, happier life

308_feat_prickly_lead.jpg

Why are we all so prickly nowadays?

122432416.jpg

The average time people wait to say “I love you”, and other milestones

Comments

More

How to chill a bottle of white wine in less than 3 minutes

Because who has time to wait for wine?

by Kayleigh Dray
22 May 2017

Bride’s wedding shoot with male bridesmaids goes viral

This computer engineer's bro-maids are basically awesome

by Amy Swales
22 May 2017

This is how you decide what to eat for lunch

Salad or sandwich?

by Sarah Biddlecombe
22 May 2017

How to tell if your friendship is failing - and how to fix it

These are the warning signs to look out for

by Sarah Biddlecombe
22 May 2017

This is an avocado filled with coffee because the avolatte is upon us

That's a latte. Inside an avocado, yes.

by Amy Swales
22 May 2017

Badass woman schools male co-worker over sexist promotion text

“You’d be a lot more successful as a secretary”

by Kayleigh Dray
22 May 2017

A Mamma Mia sequel is on its way – complete with the original cast

Mamma Mia, here we go again

by Moya Crockett
22 May 2017

The reason this First Dates clip is racking up millions of vies

This widower’s first date has taught us all an important lesson about grief

by Kayleigh Dray
22 May 2017

Why do people marry themselves? The rise of the sologamist wedding

Who needs The One when it's you?

by Amy Swales
19 May 2017

Why volunteering in the NHS changed my life

And how it could transform yours, too

by Stylist
19 May 2017