Understanding How Grief Weakens the Body
English terms for emotional distress are often wrapped up in the language of physical maladies: Being heartsick, sick with grief, heartbroken. The Old English word for grief, heartsarnes, literally means soreness of the heart; heartache originates from the Old English heortece, originally used to refer to heart disease. The words hurt and pain can apply equally to suffering of the mind or of the body.
In fact, medical knowledge suggests that our bodies already know what our words have long implied: that grief can, quite literally, sicken.
And now, new research may shed a little more light on part of the reason why. A study recently published in the journal Ageing and Immunity found that among the elderly, in particular, the recent loss of a loved one may leave a person more vulnerable to infectious diseases.
In other words, putting all physical ailments aside, it’s difficult—though theoretically possible—to die of a broken heart.
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