Can You Die of a Broken Heart?
We’ve all heard stories of couples that have been married for more than 40 or 50 years, whose connection is so strong that it seems they can’t live without each other—and sometimes when one of them dies, the other follows a few days or weeks later.
And as romantic as this may sound, there is a scientific explanation behind it.
The loss of a loved one causes stress. The body is in shock and many emotions, including anger and sadness, may cause physical pain—the heart seems to beat faster, the limbs feel softer, and sometimes one simply can’t breathe. Scientists have dubbed this stress-induced cardiomyopathy, or broken-heart syndrome.
Different studies have shown that people are at an increased risk of dying in the weeks following their partner’s dead. Freelance writer Kirsten Weir reports over at Nautilus that in 2011 researchers from Harvard University in the US and the University of Yamanashi in Japan analysed data from 2.2 million people and found that after losing a spouse, the survivor has a 41 percent risk of dying within the first six months after their loved one passed away.
The results didn’t have to do with age: “People under 65 were as likely to die in the months following a spouse’s death as those over 65,” writes Weir.