November 19th, 2010 by admin
Nearly a year ago, Hollywood was shocked when actress Brittany Murphy, just 32, died from pneumonia, which she contracted after taking over-the-counter drugs. Within five months, her doting husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, aged 40, was also dead. He’d died from a cardiac arrest – his heart had literally broken.
I bring this up because I just came across some fascinating data that confirms what I’ve always suspected: there is such a thing as a broken heart.
Scientists have discovered this phenomenon is nothing new. Researchers at St. Andrews University in Scotland, studying the lifespan of thousands of married couples, found that more than a third of men and a quarter of women die within three years of their partners’ deaths.
“The key message is that it doesn’t matter what causes of death you look at, there is still a widowhood effect,” remarked Professor Paul Boyle, chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council and lead author of the study.
In his study, Boyle examined records of more than 58,000 men and about the same number of women who’d been married in 1991, and then tracked them for the following 15 years. Of this group, more than 5,000 men and 9,600 women were widowed.
As is generally assumed, the men had a slightly tougher time of it, and within three years 40 per cent had died. Nevertheless, of those women whose partners died, 26 per cent had died within the next three years.
Most interesting of all was that the cause of death didn’t seem to matter. The widowed partners died from illness, such as cancer or heart attack; self-inflicted causes, such as alcohol abuse, smoking or suicide; accidents, such as a car crash; or even murder. It was as though once a partner dies, the remaining spouse feels left behind and decides to give up, one way or another.