Tue | Jan 18, 2022


Published:Friday | September 11, 2015 | 10:10 AM

Many of us have heard the suggestion that when one spouse dies, the other one often follows shortly after. It is thought that this is especially true of the men who are left behind. But is this really true? can grief really kill?

People who have been married a long time build really strong bonds between them. Marriage forms a team that can allow persons to do more together than they could do alone. The physical and emotional support can actually enhance the health of both persons. Studies have shown, though, that this positive effect is more pronounced for the male than the female. So what happens when death does them part?

The idea that the death of one spouse often leads to the death of the other has actually been proven. A recent study came out showing that there is a 66 per cent increased chance of the surviving spouse dying in the first three months. It is called the 'widow effect'. Some studies show that men are more at risk, but others don't. Based on the fact that men enjoy more health benefits from being married, it's probably true.

Positive feelings

One thing that is lacking from the studies is why this happens. There isn't much consensus on this matter. There is no doubt that as we get older, our reserves get thinner and we become less likely to withstand illness. Positive feelings have

positive effects on your health, so negative emotions will undoubtedly have the opposite effect. Beneficial hormones are

produced when we are happy. Interestingly, though, it's not only older couples who demonstrate this phenomenon as it occurs in younger ones as well.

If the surviving spouse has a chronic illness, then more than likely, he or she will be on medications and special diets and have doctors' appointments. Without a spouse around to organise these things, the health of the surviving spouse may deteriorate. There may also be lack of motivation to get these things done due to grief.

The loss of a spouse may also lead to risky or careless behaviours by the surviving spouse, so he or she may be more likely to accidents and engage in other harmful behaviours. Some persons may even become suicidal. These factors may account for the effect in younger couples.

Social groups such as church, may reduce the 'widow effect'. Loved ones should pay special attention to the one left behind.