The trauma and grief resulting from the death of a close friend lasts four times longer than previously believed, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU).
The findings reveal that a close friend’s passing will significantly affect a person’s physical, psychological and social well-being up to at least four years. Previous research has suggested the grieving period lasts for around 12 months.
The researchers say that a lack of knowledge about the time it takes people to mourn a close friend may lead to inadequate support during the grieving process.
For the study, the researchers analyzed the health data of 26,515 Australians from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey covering a period of 14 years (2002 to 2015). Of these participants, 9,586 had experienced the death of at least one close friend.
Lead author Dr. Wai-Man (Raymond) Liu said the study found that people who were grieving a close friend suffered a significant decline in physical health, mental health, emotional stability and social life.
“These findings raise serious concerns with the way we manage the recovery for people dealing with the loss of a close friend,” said Lui. “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 the 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,” said Liu.
Liu has called on medical practitioners and policy makers to rethink the way they approach dealing with people’s grief after they have lost a close friend.
“We need to recognize the death of a close friend takes a serious toll, and to offer health and psychological services to assist these people over an adequate period of time.”
The paper is published in the journal PLOS One.
Source: Australian National University