Most people have heard stories about an older person who "dies of a broken heart" shortly after their partners death. A new study finds that hospitalization of a spouse for a serious illness also increases their partners risk of death. Further, the risk is greater with certain diagnoses, such as dementia, stroke and hip fracture. The study was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The report, by Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School, and Paul D. Allison, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, is the first to measure a link between a spouses hospitalization and increased mortality of their partner across a comprehensive range of spousal diseases. The findings, says Christakis, were striking. "When a spouse is hospitalized, the partners risk of death increases significantly and remains elevated for up to two years," he notes. The study is published in the Feb. 16, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"This highly innovative study – in an enormous sample of older people – demonstrates yet another important connection between social networks and health," says Richard M.Suzman, Ph.D., Associate Director of the NIA for Behavioral and Social Research. "We dont yet know the full extent to which social networks affect health. We need to explore the mechanisms behind the stresses associated with these hospitalizations as we look for ways to protect people when their central relationships are disrupted."
Jeannine Mjoseth | EurekAlert!
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