September 8, 2011
Parents Of Those Who’ve Lost Children Die Earlier
Researchers compared deaths among parents who had lost their children in the first year of a child´s life or whose child had been stillborn, against deaths among parents whose baby had survived beyond the first year and discovered that those parents, especially mothers, were more likely to die in the next 10 years, AFP is reporting.The study, published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, focused on a random 5 percent sample of UK death registrations among parents whose child had survived beyond the first year of life and those whose child had died before reaching a first birthday for the period 1971 to 2006. They included parents whose children had been stillborn.
The risk for mothers lessened slightly over time, but was still significant, 50 percent higher after 25 years and after 35 years, it was 20 percent higher. The reasons for the mortality are unclear because of incomplete data.
It is commonly believed that people who lose their spouse/partner often die earlier than expected, commonly referred to as “dying of a broken heart,” say the authors and it seems that this applies just as much to losing a child in infancy, they add.
Researchers from York and Stirling universities suspect alcohol abuse among bereaved parents, and suicide, too, may be a factor. Alternatively, stillbirth and infant deaths could be more common among parents who themselves are in poor health.
“The stress of bereavement may involve significant physiological effects - for example suppressing the immune system thereby increasing one´s propensity to disease.” The report said. “It is imperative that cause of death be further investigated in order to establish the factors leading to increased mortality in bereaved parents.”
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