Four Questions: How Grief Affects the Immune System

Four Questions: How Grief Affects the Immune System

Losing a loved one is one of the most stressful life experiences a person will endure, and its toll can be physical as well as emotional. Science has shown, for example, that widows and widowers have a 41 percent higher risk of early death, compared to their still-married peers.

Bereavement's association with increased risk for disease and early mortality may be explained, at least in part, by the relationship between grief and the immune system — something researchers began studying in 1977. Since then, evidence has shown that people may experience negative changes in their immune function following the loss of a loved one.

In a new research review article published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, University of Arizona psychology doctoral student Lindsey Knowles and associate professors of psychology Mary-Frances O'Connor and John Ruizexamined 41 years of existing research on bereavement and the immune system. They focused specifically on 13 studies deemed to be of high scientific quality.

Knowles and O'Connor discussed their findings and possible directions for future research.

Read the full article from UA News here

Published Date: 
04/10/2019 - 10:44