The Broken Heart: Reality Or Myth?

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Omega-Journal Of Death And Dying


The hypothesis that the death of a spouse results in high mortality risk for the remaining mate is gaining credence. Further, it is held, this risk recedes with the age of the couple, and is elevated in the male population. The validity of these views is assessed. Direct evidence for this “loss effect” has been derived from cross-sectional and longitudinal research. In the former case, plausible alternative explanations exist for virtually all findings to date. Cross-sectional research thus fails to establish the existence of a loss effect. Although many alternative explanations can be ruled out in longitudinal research, analysis reveals shortcomings in virtually every study. Thus, neither the loss effect nor its associated hypotheses concerning age and gender rest as yet on convincing evidence. At the same time, indirect sources of evidence support the loss effect and indicate the necessity for continued research of expanded scope.

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