Researchers from the University of Stirling and Australian National University showed in a new study that the trauma caused by the death of a close friend can last up to four years and can impact individuals on various levels.
The research published in PLoS One reports that a close friend’s death can significantly affect an individual’s physical, psychological and social well being. Also, the consequences seem to affect women more than men.
The study was based on data from 26,515 Australians, of whom more than 9,000 experienced the death of at least one close friend. Individuals were interviewed and checked-up annually for 14 years, and the results showed a significant decline in physical and mental health, emotional stability and social life among those who lost a friend compared to those who never did.
For women, a sharp drop in vitality was noticed, as well as a greater deterioration in mental health compared to men who also lost a close friend. Men seem to have lower life satisfaction in the short-run, while women showed less satisfaction in the long run (2 years and beyond following the death).
This is the first research to investigate the bio-psychosocial impacts of a tragedy of this kind and the importance of its results is that they point to people who have lost a close friend as a social group in need of physical and emotional support in the years following the death. To put these results to use, the authors advocate an awareness of general practitioners and primary care health practitioners and sensibility to the potential vulnerability of this group of people as it could ”allow them to be more proactive in recognition of grief-related presentations and providing subsequent support”.
“These findings raise serious concerns with the way we manage the recovery for people dealing with the loss of a close friend,” said lead author Wai-Man (Raymond) Liu.
“We found there are serious declines in the health and wellbeing of people who had experienced the death of a close friend any time in the last four years.
“We all know that when someone loses a partner, parent or child, that person is likely to suffer through a significant grieving period.
“Yet death of a close friend, which most of us will experience, is not afforded the same level of seriousness by employers, doctors, and the community.
“The death of a friend is a form of disenfranchised grief — one not taken so seriously or afforded such significance”
“This is leaving people without the support and services they need during a very traumatic period of their lives.”
The authors note several limitations to the study, mainly concerning deficits of self-completion questionnaires or lack of detailed information that could further explain grief processes.
For the full article titled ” Death of a close friend: Short and long-term impacts on physical, psychological and social well-being” and authored by Wai-Man Liu, Liz Forbat, Katrina Anderson please visit: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0214838