Death of Partner Associated with Increased Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke

Main Point:

The risk of heart attack or stroke is increased in the 30 days after a partner’s death.

Published in:

JAMA Internal Medicine 


Iain M. Carey, M.Sc., Ph.D., of St. George’s University of London, and colleagues.


Bereavement is recognized as a risk factor for death and is associated with cardiovascular events.

How the Study Was Conducted:

The authors compared the rate of myocardial infarction (MI, heart attack) or stroke in older patients (n=30,447, 60 to 89 years of age) whose partner died to that of individuals (n=83,588) whose partners were still alive during the same period.


Fifty patients (0.16 percent) experienced MI or stroke within 30 days of their partner’s death compared with 67 (0.08 percent) of controls. The increased risk of MI or stroke in bereaved men and women lessened after 30 days.


“We have described a marked increase in cardiovascular risk in the month after spousal bereavement, which seems likely to be the result of adverse physiological responses associated with acute grief. A better understanding of psychosocial factors associated with acute cardiovascular events may provide opportunities for prevention and improved clinical care.”


Iain M. Carey MSc, PhD, Sunil M. Shah MBBS, MSc, FFPH, Stephen DeWilde MBBS, MD, FRCGP, Tess Harris MBBS, MSc, MD, MRCGP, Christina R. Victor MPhil, PhD, Derek G. Cook MSc, PhD (2014). Increased Risk of Acute Cardiovascular Events After Partner Bereavement: A Matched Cohort Study JAMA Internal Medicine DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14558

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 24, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14558)

Editor’s Note:

This study was supported by the Dunhill Medical Trust. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Media Advisory:

To contact corresponding author Sunil M. Shah, B.Sc., M.B.B.S., M.Sc., F.F.P.H., email

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