Spouse's Hospitalization Increases Partner's Risk of Death

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Spouse Relations

Most people have heard stories about an older person who "dies of a broken heart" shortly after their partner's death. A new study finds that hospitalization of a spouse for a serious illness also increases their partner's 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) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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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 spouse's 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 partner's 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

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