People who lose a partner to suicide are at increased risk for a number of mental and physical disorders, including cancer, depression, herniated discs and mood disorders than those in the general population, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
The study, believed to be the first large-scale examination of the broader impact of losing a partner to suicide, underscores the need for support systems for bereaved partners and others who’ve lost loved ones to suicide, since interventions addressing complicated grief could help mitigate some of the effects. More than 800,000 people around the world die by suicide each year, and the suicide rate in many countries, including the United States, is on the rise.
The study, published online March 22 in JAMA Psychiatry, followed 4,814 Danish men and 10,793 Danish women bereaved by partner suicide for up to 35 years, from 1980 to 2014, and compared them to the general population of Denmark.
“It is an exceedingly devastating experience when someone you love dearly dies suddenly by suicide,” says study leader Dr. Annette Erlangsen, an adjunct professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health. “We were able to show that being exposed to such a stressful life event as the suicide of your partner holds higher risks for physical and mental disorders and is different from losing a partner from other causes of death, such as illness or sudden accident.”