366 Grief & Physical Difficulties

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Research by Fagundes, Christopher P., Brown, R. L., Chen, M. A., Murdock, K. W., Saucedo, L., LeRoy, A…. Heijnen, Cobi (2019).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

When we have a great loss, we experience grief and depression. Research indicates depression can bring upon inflammation in the body, as seen in heart difficulties. So, does grief have similar physical consequences?

Researchers wondered if grief alone (i.e., without depression) was associated with inflammation. They assessed if grieving widowed individuals who were already experiencing increased depressive symptoms, compared to the general population, had a higher level of inflammation when compared to grieving widows with fewer depressive symptoms.

One hundred widows completed measures evaluating grief-related and depressive symptoms. Each participant had blood drawn, so researchers could examine for inflammation indicators. Lastly, each participant’s sleep habits, physical activity, and comorbid conditions were considered.

Results? Those with higher levels of grief or higher levels of depressive symptoms displayed an increase in inflammation. Further analysis showed that the relationship between grief and inflammation was not caused by depression. This indicates that grief alone, that is, without depression, can result in increased inflammation.

So, if you know someone who is currently grieving, check in on them! Grief takes a mental and physical toll. If you are currently grieving, especially, after losing a loved one, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Reference:

Fagundes, C. P., Brown, R. L., Chen, M. A., Murdock, K. W., Saucedo, L., LeRoy, A…. Heijnen, C. (2019). Grief, depressive symptoms, and inflammation in the spousally bereaved. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 100, 190-197.

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About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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