A new study finds men who lose their partner to cancer have better physical and mental health if they enter a new relationship within four to five years of the loss.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg performed the study on 691 Swedish widowers.
Experts say that scientific studies show that the relatives of the deceased are at greater risk of dying themselves or developing mental and physical illness. However, most studies have focused on widows, and on the short-term risks.
The unique long term study of men discovered that widowers who had found a new partner four to five years after a wife’s death managed to deal with their loss relatively well.
Investigators found that those who remained single were at far greater risk of developing depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and emotional blunting. They were also more likely to use sleeping pills and antidepressants.
“Previous studies have shown that people who lose their partner are at greater short-term poor mental health,” said Gunnar Steineck, Ph.D., who worked on the study.
“Our study is the first to show that the risk of poor mental health last for many years but, on the average, the risk is restricted to those who don’t find a new partner.”
Investigators believe the study shows the value of emotional support.
“We need more research to understand the underlying mechanisms, but yes, emotional support from a new partner does probably help to process grief and protect against mental illness,” said Steineck.
“But it could also be the case that those men who cope best with their loss are more likely to show an interest in finding a new partner.”
Source: University of Gothenburg