Bereaved parents may not live for long

Last Updated: Sep 09, 2011, 13:52 PM IST

London: While it is commonly believed that people may die of a `broken heart` on losing a partner, a new study has indicated parents, who lose their baby within first year of its life, are much more likely to die early.

The new study, published in the British medical journal Supportive and Palliative Care, has found that bereaved parents are between two and four times more likely to die early or become widowed in the first 10 years after losing a child compared to those who are not bereaved, Daily Mail reported.

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

The effect 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.

According to the authors, from the University of York and the University of Stirling, the increased risk of death among bereaved parents was of major concern.

The researchers looked at a random five percent sample of UK death registrations among parents whose child lived beyond its first year and those whose child had died before reaching a first birthday for the period 1971 to 2006.

Larger-scale studies are needed to identify the causes of death and whether anything can be done to help parents, they said.

The stress of bereavement may also have significant effects on the body, such as suppressing the immune system and increasing the risk of disease.

IANS