The profound sense of grief that comes with loss can be fatal.
A major study at Rice University titled “Grief, Depressive Symptoms and Inflammation in the Spousal Bereaved” looked at the amount of grief each of 99 recently widowed participants was feeling, and through blood tests, measured the amount of inflammation in their bodies.
The higher their grief, the higher the inflammation, and the higher their risk of dying.
“People who are experiencing the higher levels of grief systems are the ones that are more at risk for these inflammatory factors, and that means that they are more at risk for a host of different diseases including cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Angie LeRoy, one of the researchers on study.
Inflammation can cause a host of maladies, including some cancers, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, heart disease and diabetes.
“The problem is that for chronic or prolonged stressors, like losing a spouse and that kind of grief, it keeps our immune system in hyper drive and keeps working all the time,” says Dr. LeRoy.
The team of researchers found those reporting the highest levels of grief symptoms suffered 17% higher levels of inflammation, and that those in the highest-third reporting the greatest grief had a 53.4% higher level of inflammation than those in the bottom-third.