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New love heals love lost

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Widowerhood is not good for men. Researchers have found that men who have lost their partner to cancer and do not remarry after five years run a greater risk of developing mental illness than those who find a new love.

With more than 22,000 people dying of cancer each year in Sweden, there is great interest in the mental health of the surviving spouse. It has been previously shown that relatives of the deceased are at a greater risk of dying themselves, developing mental illness or physical illness than for others who do not have a family member who has died of cancer. Most of these studies focus on surviving wives.

This study followed 691 Swedish widowers over five years. The study shows that widowers who had found a new partner four to five years after the death of their wife managed their loss well and were able to live healthy lives.

“Previous studies have shown that people who lose their partner are at greater short-term poor mental health,” said professor Gunnar Steineck of the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy. “Our study is the first to show that the risk of poor mental health lasts for many years but on the average, the risk is restricted to those who don’t find a new partner.”

So it appears that new love may heal the pain of love lost. “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,” concluded 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: MedicalNewsToday, Sahlgrenska Academy

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