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Death of Child Raises Mental Health Risk – Study

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The death of a child can cause not only devastating grief, but later serious mental illness as well, researchers reported on Wednesday.

The study of more than a million Danish parents showed that losing a child under the age of 18 raised the risk of serious mental crisis, requiring hospitalization, by 67 percent.And it takes five years for the risk to subside, the researchers report in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.Women were the most vulnerable, according to the study. Their chances of ending up in a psychiatric hospital for the first time increased 78 percent following a child’s death.Fathers who lost a child had a 38 percent increased risk of being hospitalized for psychiatric illness.Because the study did not assess less severe mental health problems, the researchers said their findings “underestimated (the) incidence rates for overall psychiatric illness” following the death of a child.The team, led by Jiong Li of the University of Aarhus in Denmark, also found that in the much rarer cases where a parent lost two or more children, the risk of being hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder more than doubled among men, increasing 139 percent, and more than tripled among women, increasing 235 percent.Such risks “were highest during the first year after bereavement, remained significantly increased five years or more after the loss,” and went down if the parents had more than one child.Previous studies have shown that losing a parent during childhood or losing a spouse also heightens the risk of mental illness.(Source: New England Journal of Medicine: Reuters Health: March 2005.)

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Posted On: 28 March, 2005
Modified On: 16 January, 2014

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