We’ve heard plenty of stories of elderly couples who supposedly die of a broken heart, but that’s just coincidence, right? That kind of thing is reserved for schmaltzy romance movies based on Nicolas Sparks novels, not real life, right?
It turns out you totally can die of a broken heart, and we now have the science to prove it. Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK conducted a recent study that found grieving in elderly persons can cause stress hormones to become imbalanced, leading to a reduction in immune system cells. And after a certain age, a weakened immune system can easily turn to sudden death.
The recent study was published in the journal Immunity and Ageing and focused on 100 participants, half of them over the age of 65, the rest between 18 and 45. Younger patients generally had a stronger immune system response to heartbreak, a phenomenon that doesn’t bode so well for seniors.
In case you’re worried you may die in such a romantic way, researchers suggest that hormonal supplements may be able to counteract the stresses of grief on the immune system.
University researcher Dr. Anna Phillips told the Telegraph:
I believe it is the answer to why we sometimes see wives and husbands dying soon after the death of a spouse, who is their main social support. They are not dying of a broken heart, but the effect the stress is having on their immune function.
The effects of loss are poorly understood on the whole. We know it affects the immune system amongst other things. But we do not fully understand the role played by our stress hormones. We hope this is a step towards that understanding, and being able to provide the best possible support.
We at First to Know have always had a sneaking suspicion this was a real phenomenon. How else can you explain the evidence?